SL forces bomb LTTE area; 67 killed in clash
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SL forces bomb LTTE area; 67 killed in clash

Sri Lankan navy spokesman said that 17 naval personnel were killed. On the LTTE side, the loss was five boats with at least 50 cadres.

india Updated: May 12, 2006 02:24 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran

In a series of very grave incidents on Thursday, the LTTE attacked a Sri Lankan ship carrying 500 troops and sank two Dvora Fast Attack Craft (FACs) of the Navy off the island's North Eastern coast.

On its part, the Sri Lankan Air Force bombed an area not far from the LTTE's headquarters in Kilinochchi, and sank five rebel suicide boats.

Sri Lankan navy spokesman DKP Dassanayake said that 17 naval personnel, including two officers, were killed. On the LTTE side, the loss was five boats with at least 50 cadres, he added.

The LTTE's media spokesman Thaya Master told Hindustan Times that fighter bombers of the SLAF attacked an area between Kilinochchi and Mankulam, in the northern Wanni region twice between 5 and 6 pm.

"We have no information so far on the casualties," Thaya Master said.

According to Helen Olafsdottir, spokesperson of the Scandinavian-staffed Sri Lanka Truce Monitoring Mission (SLMM), there was evidence of an air strike, but she added that there were no details about the location of the attack, and the casualties.

Olafsdottir further said that LTTE's Sea Tiger boats attacked four Sri Lankan naval Dvoras and sunk one of them off the coast of Vettrilaikeni in Vadamarachchi.

In another incident, 40 nautical miles off the Point Pedro, coast further north in Jaffna district, 12 boats of the LTTE's Sea Tigers attacked a Sri Lankan troop ship called "Pearl Cruise".

In the battle that followed one Sri Lankan Dvora was sunk, she said.

The troop ship immediately left for Indian waters, the SLMM spokesperson added.

According to the Tamilnet website, the ship was carrying 500 Sri Lankan soldiers.

A Sri Lankan military spokesman said that the troop ship was attacked by several suicide boats. The ship's naval escort engaged the suicide boats and sunk five of them.

In a statement condemning the LTTE's naval action, the SLMM said that the sea movement and the attacks "putting the SLMM monitors in grave danger," were a "gross violation" of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of 2002.

"The sea surrounding Sri Lanka is a government controlled area"
the SLMM said, and added that this accorded with international law.

By attacking Sri Lankan vessels with SLMM monitors on board, the LTTE was sending the monitors the message that they should not be on board Sri Lankan naval vessels, the statement said.

The SLMM told the LTTE that it was taking this "very seriously".

It asked the rebels to observe the CFA and to do "everything in its power not to jeopardize the monitors."

The SLMM asked the LTTE to "immediately cease all activities and operations in the sea as they are a serious violation of the CFA."

"This reckless behaviour can only lead to a dangerous escalation resulting in growing hostilities and jeopardizing any possibility of future peace talks," the monitors said.

First Published: May 11, 2006 17:25 IST