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LTTE attack kills 15 Lankan navymen

An LTTE suicide boat rammed into a naval vessel outside the Trincomalee harbour, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2006 15:11 IST

In a major incident which could well signal the beginning of another war in Sri Lanka, fifteen Sri Lankan navy personnel were killed when an LTTE suicide boat rammed into a naval vessel outside the Trincomalee harbour in Eastern Sri Lanka on Saturday.

Military sources said that two Israeli-made Fast Attack Craft (FAC) of the navy had set out of the Trincomalee naval base on routine patrol early in the morning. While cruising near Foul Point in the outer periphery of the harbour at about 1 am, an LTTE suicide boat suddenly emerged from a group of fishing boats and rammed into one of the FAC, blowing it up completely.

Fifteen men, including two officers, were killed. Two men were wounded and rescued by the other FAC, which had escaped the impact of the explosion.

Analysts say Eelam War IV imminent

This is the first time since the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in February 2002, that there has been a direct confrontation between the LTTE military and the Sri Lankan forces.

Previously, the clashes were between unidentified groups/civilians and the Sri Lankan armed forces. The LTTE had not claimed responsibility even for the claymore mine or grenade attacks on army units which had taken place earlier in North and North West Sri Lanka, and in which more than 50 Sri Lankan soldiers and sailors had died.

Saturday's incident on sea is interpreted by leading defence analyst Iqbal Athas as a possible beginning of Eelam War IV, the fourth in the series of major and sustained military confrontations between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces.

Eelam War III, which began in 1995, ended with the signing of the CFA in February 2002. Eelam War II had begun in June 1990 and had ended with the start of peace talks with the Chandrika Kumaratunga government in 1994.

Most observers agree with analyst Athas because of the tense political and security situation in the Tamil North East since the coming into power of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President of Sri Lanka in November 2005.

Rajapaksa is seen by the LTTE as a hardliner, who is also egged on by Sinhala majoritarian or Sinhala radical forces like the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU).

The LTTE and the Tamil minority say that Rajapaksa has gone back on the earlier Sri Lankan governments' commitment to finding a "federal" solution to the ethnic conflict. He has been saying that he envisages "maximum devolution of powers within a unitary constitution."

But this is unacceptable to the majority of the Tamils, especially the LTTE.

The LTTE, which has set its sights on an independent Tamil Eelam, had nevertheless committed itself to "trying to find a federal solution within Sri Lanka" at the Oslo conference in December 2002.

But the hard line political stance of the new Rajapaksa government had encouraged the LTTE to go on propaganda offensive against the Sri Lankan state. It has been undertaking piece piecemeal and covert military action against the Sri Lankan armed forces in the Tamil-speaking North and West. It has also been consistently setting the people of Jaffna against the armed forces by making them agitate on issues, which affect them.

First Published: Jan 07, 2006 10:49 IST