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 Post subject: MILITARY SAYS SINKS 22 TIGER BOATS
 Post Posted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 2:33 am 
SRI LANKA MILITARY SAYS SINKS 22 REBEL BOATS IN MAJOR NAVAL CLASH
Tigers claim to have killed 25 sailors

@ Agencies

COLOMBO, Nov 9 - Sri Lanka's military said on Thursday it sank 22 Tamil Tiger boats in a sea battle off the island's northern tip and accused the rebels of trying to sink a passenger ship with 300 civilians aboard in a suicide attack.

The military said air force jets and helicopter gunships were brought in after the rebels sank a navy fast attack boat, but said it had no immediate details of casualties.

"They tried to sink a passenger vessel. The navy sank 8 boats, and then the airforce sank another 14," military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe told Reuters. "They are trying to rescue the Navy sailors. There are survivors."

Tamil Tiger rebels claimed to have destroyed two Sri Lankan Navy gunboats and killed 25 sailors while capturing four of them alive.

Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe, while confirming that two Dvora gunboats had been sunk by the rebels, however, said the Navy and Air Force together destroyed 22 boats of the Tigers but casualty figures were not immediately available.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they lost five of their cadres in the heavy sea battle.

Samarasinghe said the Naval patrol was escorting a vessel known as 'Green Ocean' which was transporting 308 civilians to the Jaffna peninsula when the sea battle erupted. The Tigers said they were not targeting the passenger vessel, but were on a routine exercise when the Navy "interfered with us."

The Navy intercepted a cluster of Tiger boats and went into action, but a rebel vessel packed with explosives rammed into one Dvora gunboat which sank, Samarasinghe said.

A second Dvora gunboat was attacked by the Tigers and it later caught fire and was destroyed, he said.

The Tigers disputed the military claims.

Ilanthiriyan said the rebels removed a 23-mm cannon, five light machine guns, a grenade launcher and four 50-mm guns from one of the gunboats before setting it ablaze and sinking it. "It was a close-quarter battle and we did not use suicide cadres," he said claiming that they also damaged a third gunboat and found the body of one Sri Lankan sailor while capturing four of them alive.

The military deployed helicopter gunships and supersonic jets to attack a Tiger flotilla, Samarasinghe said.

The Tiger were not immediately available for comment, but said earlier they sank one navy boat and that a second was on fire and sinking, accusing the military of provoking the clash by attacking their vessels during exercises at sea.


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