Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels attack Sri Lankan navy vessel, 13 sailors dead
Fri January 6, 2006 23:14 EST .
DILIP GANGULY - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels rammed an explosives-laden fishing boat into a Sri Lankan navy vessel off the northeastern coast early Saturday, killing 13 sailors, officials said. But Sri Lanka - 's army blamed the Sea Tigers, the naval wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
``In one of the worst Tamil Tiger attacks, LTTE Sea Tigers early this morning ... blew up a Naval vessel Fast Attack Craft,'' a statement posted on the army's Web site said.
The Tamil Tigers carried out several attacks against naval vessels using explosives-packed fishing boats before a cease-fire in 2002 halted the rebels' two-decade independence war.
A similar attack in Trincomalee harbor in 1995 triggered full-scale hostilities, dashing a brief truce.
The chief of the Norwegian-led Sri Lanka - Monitoring Mission, Hagrup Haukland, expressed regret over the incident and said he was awaiting further details.
The insurgents want a separate Tamil state, saying discrimination by the majority Sinhalese, who number about 14 million.
Trincomalee, which has a strategic port and a base for the Sri Lankan navy, has been tense this week after five ethnic Tamils died. The military has said the men accidentally blew themselves up in a botched grenade attack on a military patrol, but the rebels said the men came under attack from government forces.
A formal government inquiry has been ordered into the killings.
The Norwegian official who brokered the 2002 cease-fire, Erik Solheim, is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka - in late January to see if talks can start.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns also plans to visit Sri Lanka - to encourage negotiations between the two sides, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday. No date for the trip has been announced.
Violence has worsened in the country since November's election of Sri Lanka - 's new president, Mahinda Rajapakse, who campaigned on a promise to take a tough line in negotiations with the rebels. Rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has warned the Tamil Tigers would intensify their struggle if their grievances were not addressed.
The 2002 cease-fire halted two decades of a civil war that has killed more than 65,000 people since 1983. But last month 45 soldiers were killed and 71 wounded in ambushes blamed on the rebels; government troops killed seven suspected rebels.
The two sides have also traded accusations about the slaying of a pro-rebel lawmaker at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. And in August, former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was assassinated by suspected Tiger gunmen.
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Published: Sat Jan 7 00:30:26 EST 2006