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 Post subject: Search for bodies after sea battle - one body recovered
 Post Posted: Fri May 12, 2006 7:40 pm 
Search for bodies after sea battle - one body recovered

The Tiger suicide attack on a navy gunboat yesterday that killed its 18-man crew punched another hole in the tenuous ceasefire and placed Scandanavian monitors on a collision course with the guerrillas.

Amal Jayasinghe
12-05-2006 / Agence France-Presse
Copyright 2006 News Limited.AU


TIGER rebels accused Scandinavian monitors of protecting Sri Lanka's navy as the country's military today moved to recover the bodies of 18 people killed in a sea battle.

The Tiger suicide attack on a navy gunboat yesterday that killed its 18-man crew punched another hole in the tenuous ceasefire and placed Scandanavian monitors on a collision course with the guerrillas.

"An operation is underway to recover the bodies of the 18 men," a navy spokesman said, adding divers had recovered one body.

The island was relatively calm Friday, police said, as the country marked the Buddhist festival of Wesak.

The government condemned the attack and implored the international community to "look at the Tigers in a different light."

"Tigers have mocked the Japanese and the rest of the international community with this major attack a day after the Japanese envoy (Yasushi Akashi) left the country," said Palitha Kohona, head of Colombo's Peace Secretariat.

The military said it lost 15 sailors, two officers and an army signalman aboard an Israeli-built Dvora fast attack craft. It also said 30 Tigers were killed in the counter-attack.

But the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said in a statement four of its members died "in this unprovoked attack on the Sea Tiger vessels by the Sri Lanka navy."

It accused the 60-member Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) of changing the balance of power in the embattled northeast by siding with government navy forces.

"Balance of power is one of the basic elements for the present ceasefire," the LTTE said, adding unarmed monitors were supporting the navy by travelling on its boats.

"We have repeatedly informed the SLMM we will retaliate if Sri Lanka navy vessels intercept us," the Tigers said.

The SLMM said Tigers committed "gross violations" of the ceasefire by launching an "offensive operation" against the navy.

The SLMM say they are entitled to travel with Sri Lankan naval boats to carry out monitoring duties. They also say unauthorised movements by Tiger naval units violate the ceasefire.

The SLMM has said the four-year-old truce now exists only on paper although both sides say they are committed to preserving it.

The monitoring mission said it was the Tigers who launched the attack which also jeopardised the safety of Scandinavians aboard Sri Lankan vessels.

"The SLMM has put its naval monitors at risk to provide protection to Sri Lanka navy vessels," the LTTE said. "At the same time, the SLMM has not provided protection to our fighters and our naval vessels.

"Even worse, the SLMM has ruled this incident a ceasefire violation against us."

The Tigers said they were concerned the SLMM had not blamed the government for military air strikes that followed. There was no immediate word from the Tigers about damage or casualties from the retaliatory air strikes.

Thursday's air strikes were similar to attacks on Tiger positions on April 25 in retaliation for a rebel suicide blast that wounded army chief Sarath Fonseka and killed 11.

The military was also directing artillery fire at rebel bases in the Trincomalee district, military sources said.

Violence escalated last December, and April proved the deadliest month since the truce began with at least 191 deaths, mostly civilians, the monitors say.


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