At least seven combatants were killed on Wednesday as the Tamil Tigers launched a pre-dawn sea-borne attack on a Sri Lankan naval detachment in the north-western island of Mannar.
A flotilla of six boats of the Sea Tigers, the naval wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), attacked the outpost at Erukkalampiddi, a military official said.
The site is located about eight kilometres northwest of Mannar town.
"The sailors manning the outpost retaliated the attack effectively and sunk one of the LTTE boats, killing four LTTE cadres on board. Three navy personnel were killed while a few others were wounded," Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told IANS.
Meanwhile, the defence ministry said in a statement that Russian-built MI-24 gunship helicopters engaged the fleeing LTTE boats in the Gulf of Mannar around 4.45 am.
It said that among the LTTE cadres killed in the battle was its leader Sirimaran, who led this attack.
The latest strike has come amid fierce land battles between advancing government troops and the LTTE over the past one year, leaving thousands dead on both sides.
Meanwhile, the pro-LTTE Tamilnet website reported that the attack was carried out by a special unit of the Sea Tigers.
It said the operation was in memory of Lt. Col. Kadaafi, a commander of the Sea Tigers Special Engineering Division who was killed two months ago.
It also claimed that the rebels "seized arms and military hardware, including a radar equipment" before escaping.
"The Tigers have seized 50-caliber machine guns, 81 mm mortars, Light Machine Guns, Rocket Launchers and several other military hardware from the camp," it quoted the rebel sources as saying.
TamilNet added that four guerrillas were killed in the attack.
The Sea Tigers carried out a similar a pre-dawn sea-borne attack on a naval detachment in an islet in the heavily guarded northern Jaffna peninsula May 29.