Monday, September 18, 2006
Sri Lankan battleships and warplanes intercepted an Tamil Tiger rebel weapons shipment off the island’s restive eastern coast yesterday, sinking the ship and killing up to 15 insurgents, military officials said. The vessel’s crew had refused to identify themselves, but hoisted a rebel flag during an eight-hour sea battle, before being bombed and sunk around 120 nautical miles (220 kilometers) off the eastern coast of Batticaloa district, officials said. Navy commander D.K.P. Dassanayake said the ship was carrying about 12-15 insurgents. He said there were no navy casualties. The ship, allegedly carrying artillery and missiles, is believed to have been headed for the Sampur area, which government troops captured from the Tigers earlier this month. The rebels had warned that the move was a grave violation of a 2002 cease-fire and threatened retaliation.
Tamil Tiger rebel flagThe navy assault was reinforced by gunboats and fighter planes, said chief military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe. A handful of rebels kept up resistance for several hours until the damaged vessel went under, he said. Analysts say the LTTE gets arms from manufacturers in China, Cambodia, Burma and states that were part of the former Soviet Union. They say the arms are transferred at sea from large merchant ships, some owned by companies with links to the rebels, to small craft. Tamil Tiger officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Sri Lankan Naval vesselIn other violence yesterday, suspected Tamil Tiger rebels detonated a roadside bomb near Sri Lankan forces on foot patrol, wounding four, the military said. The roadside explosion, on a major supply route in the eastern Trincomalee district, injured a soldier, a guard and two civilians, the Defense Ministry’s Media Center for National Security said. All four were being treated in hospital, it said. In the violence-ridden northern Jaffna Peninsula, an employee with the Ceylon Electricity Board was killed and two others were wounded on Saturday night when their company vehicle came under fire, the military said. Sri Lankan Naval vesselUnidentified gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed a 36-year-old shop keeper and father of three just outside of Jaffna town, witnesses said. Earlier in the day, the guerrillas carried out artillery and mortar attacks against two military bases in the island’s east and troops retaliated in kind, the Defense Ministry said. It said there were no casualties among troops. There was no word from the Tigers about the ground fighting. Tamil Tiger rebels yesterday accused government soldiers in concert with paramilitary units of killing nearly 100 civilians in Jaffna this month.