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Navy boat blown up in Lanka, 8 soldiers missing

Six Tigers were killed and eight Sri Lankan sailors went missing after the rebels blew up their trawler and sank a Navy gunboat.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2006 18:21 IST

At least six suspected Tamil Tigers were killed and eight Sri Lankan sailors went missing after the rebels blew up their trawler and sank a Navy gunboat that had approached it suspecting it of smuggling weapons.

Navy mounted a massive search for the eight missing sailors after the powerful blast in mid-sea between India and Sri Lanka off the coast of Mannar in the island's northwest.

Government sources said 11 other sailors had been rescued by local fishermen.

The incident was along the waters dividing India and Sri Lanka. Authorities here suspect that the Tigers may have been smuggling in weapons and explosives from India.

In a similar incident in January, suspected Tamil Tiger rebels blew up a similar gunboat, killing 15 sailors outside the northeastern port of Trincomalee.

On Wednesday, the navy detained a fishing trawler operated by suspected rebels off the island's northern waters and arrested five fishermen.

Despite talks between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan government in Geneva in February, the first direct contact since 2003, tension has been rising in the troubled northeast.

The rebels accused the military of building new bunkers in violation of their four-year-old ceasefire and on last Monday accused the navy of attacking villages in the northeast. Navy denied the charges, saying it fired only in self-defence after attacks by the rebels.

The government for its part has accused the Tigers of using the cover of fishermen to launch attacks against Navy.

Saturday's blast comes as another round of parleys is scheduled for next month in Switzerland to salvage the faltering ceasefire.

First Published: Mar 25, 2006 16:59 IST