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35 killed in sea battle in Lanka

world Updated: Sep 19, 2008 01:29 IST
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Heavy fighting broke out between the Sri Lankan navy (SLN) and the sea wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) off the northern coasts on Thursday.

The pitched battle on the coastal waters of northern Sri Lanka went on for more than three hours in which, the military said, at least 25 LTTE personnel were killed and 10 small and big boats of the Tamil Tigers were destroyed.

The sea tigers had to retreat after sustaining heavy damage. While the military said only two SLN personnel were wounded, unconfirmed reports said that at least 10 soldiers of the navy were killed.

There was immediate counter claim from the LTTE.

The Navy said that as the battle progressed, naval Rapid Action Boat Squadron (RABS) and the elite Special Boat Squadron (SBS) craft were rushed to the battle scene.

“The LTTE boats were led by a senior sea tiger cadre identified as Kadar,’’ the military said citing intercepted LTTE communication.

Initially four boats were detected off the Valaipadu coast North of Nachchikuda, and confrontation broke-out when the approaching naval craft were attacked by LTTE boats.

Though the LTTE did not react to the claim of the SLN, it claimed success on another battle front.

The pro-LTTE website, Tamilnet.com, quoting the Tigers, said the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), which launched a fresh attempt to advance in Vannerikulam on Thursday suffered heavy casualties as the Tigers repulsed the move after four hours of heavy fighting.

“LTTE military officials in Vanni told TamilNet that 25 SLA soldiers were killed in the fighting and more than 40 wounded.

Two dead bodies of SLA soldiers were recovered and the Tigers have seized arms and ammunitions from the battlefield,’’ the website said.

LTTE military officers also told Tamilnet that SLA troops had attempted to advance in the southern sector of the Kilinochchi district on Wednesday amid stiff fighting.

At least 71 people were killed on Wednesday, one of the deadliest days of combat since Sri Lanka’s armed forces intensified a thrust into rebel-held territory three months ago.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Air Force carried out two air raids targeting LTTE strongholds in Kilinochchi district on Thursday afternoon.

The latest fighting raised the number of rebels killed by troops since January to 6,637, while 646 soldiers have died in combat, according to the ministry tally.

The LTTE accused army commandos of setting off a roadside mine on Thursday targeting a passenger bus inside rebel territory, killing three civilians and wounding five, Tamilnet.com said.

“Sri Lanka Army Deep Penetration Unit infiltrators on Thursday morning triggered a Claymore mine targeting a passenger bus, killing at least three civilians,” the website said quoting unidentified rebel police.

Security forces are now advancing to wrestle control of the rebels’ political capital of Kilinochchi for the first time in 10 years.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said this week that security forces hope to capture Kilinochchi by December.

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