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14 feared killed in Sri Lanka boat blast

Six rebels and eight sailors were feared killed, when a boat heading to northern Sri Lanka and carrying Tamil rebels exploded.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2006 04:06 IST

Six rebels and eight sailors were feared killed, when a boat heading to northern Sri Lanka and carrying Tamil rebels exploded off the northwest coast Saturday near a naval craft, a military spokesman said.

The boat, believed to be carrying explosives, was approached by a Naval Fast Attack Craft to carry out an inspection when it exploded in the Kalpititya region, 200 km north of Colombo, Brigadier Pradsad Samarasinghe said.

People aboard are believed to have detonated the vessel to avoid detection, he said.

The naval craft sank and 11 sailors were rescued. A search operation for the sailors was in progress, but they are presumed dead, the navy said.

Naval personnel rescued were airlifted to Colombo for medical treatment.

An official government statement said that in a suicide style operation, people aboard the boat had detonated the device when the navy approached.

"The magnitude of the explosion and the damage it caused to the approaching naval vessel indicates that the trawler was transporting a large quantity of explosives," the statement said.

The government statement stopped short of naming the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as the group involved in the incident, but the military said it was a rebel boat.

The incident was the biggest since the government and the rebels resumed peace negotiations last month after a three-year lapse. The next round of talks is due to be held in Geneva April 19-21.

First Published: Mar 26, 2006 04:06 IST