By P. Karunakharan, IANS,
Colombo : At least 14 Sea Tigers were killed and four of their boats were destroyed by the Sri Lankan Navy off the northern coast early Saturday, a navy official here said.
Navy spokesman Commander D.K.P. Dassanayake said that the pre-dawn clashes broke out when the naval boats on routine patrol engaged “a cluster of small Sea Tiger boats” off Nagarkovil in the Janffa peninsula. Sea Tigers is the naval wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“Four LTTE boats were destroyed and 14 Sea Tigers were killed while 16 more rebels were injured,” Dassanayake told IANS, adding that five navy sailors were wounded.
On Friday, Sri Lankan Air Force jets had bombed a suspected hideout of Sea Tiger wing leader Soosai at Akkarayankulam in the west of Kilinochchi.
Advancing government troops claimed to have inflicted “a major blow” to the LTTE Thursday by “completely capturing” the rebels’ last major naval stronghold in the western coastal belt Nachchikkuda and adjoining Jeyapuram village in the west of Kilinochchi.
Although there was no immediate word from the LTTE regarding Saturday’s clash, the pro-LTTE Tamilnet website reported that two naval attack crafts were destroyed in the battle in which the rebels claimed to have used explosives-laden suicide boats.
It claimed that Sri Lankan Navy’s “Dvora fast attack craft and a hovercraft” were sunk in the clash that broke out in the sea off Nakarkovil at 5.15 a.m.
“Sea Tiger officials told Tamilnet that 20 of their attack crafts took part in the mission and seven Black Sea Tigers laid down their lives in the operation,” the pro-rebel web report said.
The Sri Lankan navy spokesman, however, denied the claims by the pro-rebel website and confirmed that “there was no damage to the naval boats”.
“In fact, we deployed only the small boats for this battle and the Dvora fast attack craft was not even in the vicinity. We do not operate hovercraft in the northern seas and it is safe in the Colombo naval base,” Commander Dassanayake said, refuting the LTTE claims as “mere propaganda”.