Saturday, December 20, 2008
Three boats belonging to the Tamil Tigers have been sunk off the east of Sri Lanka, killing a senior rebel naval commander, the navy says. Military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanaykkara told the Reuters news agency that 18 rebels were also killed. The navy says that the battle began on Thursday and went on into Friday. It says that one navy sailor was killed. But the Tigers say that three navy gunboats were destroyed in the battle and the navy was forced to retreat. According to the pro-rebel website, Tamilnet, a Sea Tiger flotilla was attacked by 17 navy vessels in heavy seas on Thursday night. Tamilnet said that three Sea Tigers were killed in the overnight fighting, which forced the navy to retreat back to harbour, towing damaged boats. Correspondents say it is impossible to verify the claims of either side. Displaced Sinhalese civilians in Sri Lanka.The navy says that the Sea Tigers were trying to evacuate rebel fighters trapped after a government offensive had left them surrounded in jungles in the east. It says that when naval vessels intercepted, a long sea battle began, culminating in the sinking of three rebel vessels and the death of top rebel officer, Lt Col Nishan Than. The navy says that one Sri Lankan sailor was wounded in addition to the sailor who was killed. The sea battle - which both sides agree took place about 40km (25 miles) north of the eastern city of Trincomalee, comes as land fighting around the rebel's northern stronghold has intensified over the last few days. The army says that more than 60 rebels have been killed in fighting throughout this week. It has made significant advances recently against the rebels in the east of the country, but the Tamil Tigers still control large parts of the north. Around 70,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the war first erupted in 1983.