Sri Lankan security forces destroyed three Tamil Tigers boats on Saturday and killed at least seven guerrillas trying to escape a major ground offensive, military officials said.The navy's special boats squadron sank one boat belonging to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) while two others were destroyed by ground troops when they tried to beach, a military spokesman said.
He said the military believed that at least seven Tiger cadres were killed in the sea battle, which also left three government naval craft damaged. Another seven Tiger boats managed to escape the attack, the military said.The guerrillas were believed to be leaving a narrow strip of land that is still under their control in the coastal Mullaittivu district when the battle erupted.Sri Lankan troops captured a key village from the Tigers on Friday after heavy fighting that left at least 44 guerrillas dead while another 13 rebels were killed elsewhere, the military said.
The Tiger guerrillas are battling to resist a military assault that has pushed them into a 20-square-kilometre (eight square mile) patch of land in Mullaittivu.The United Nations and foreign aid organisations say as many as 150,000 civilians may be trapped in the combat zone, although the Sri Lankan government insists the figure is less than half that.At the height of their power in the mid-1990s, the Tigers controlled more than a third of the total land mass of Sri Lanka as they pushed for an independent Tamil homeland.
Sri Lanka has said for months that its forces are on the verge of dealing a crushing blow to the Tigers in the decades-old ethnic conflict.