Sri Lankan navy foils suspected boat bomb attack
Fri May 5, 2006 06:57 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's navy on Friday thwarted a suspected attempted suicide attack by Tamil Tiger rebels using an explosive-laden boat, which blew up when it was hit by fire from navy vessels, a military spokesman said. Friday's attacks were the latest in a cycle of violence in Sri Lanka - that has escalated dramatically in recent weeks, raising fears the country may be headed back toward all-out civil war.
Navy spokesman Commander D.K.P. Dassanayake said five navy boats were patrolling near Kalpitiya, a fishing area about 140 kilometers (86 miles) northwest of the capital, Colombo, when they were attacked by four boats.
``When our naval crafts were patrolling in the sea two suspicious boats approached. Another two joined them shortly and started firing at (the) navy boats,'' Dassanayake said.
The navy boats fired back and one of the attacking boats exploded and sank, Dassanayake said. The size of the blast and the fragments left behind by the blast indicated it was packed with explosives and intended to be used in a suicide attack.
The other attacks boats fled back to shore and were pursued by navy vessels, which were then fired upon by suspected rebels positioned on the coast, air force spokesman Group Captain Ajantha Silva said. He said air force helicopters retaliated, forcing the rebels on land to flee.
No casualties from the incidents were reported by the navy side.
There was no independent confirmation of the incident.
In the northern town of Vavuniya, three police officers and three civilians were injured when suspected Tiger rebels detonated an anti-personnel mine, local police officer G.M. Dharmadasa said.
Dharmadasa said the mine targeted a police patrol in the town, which is about 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of Colombo and is the last government-held town before entering territory controlled by the rebels.
Two explosions and a grenade attack in the same town on Thursday killed three government security personnel and wounded 14, including 10 civilians.
More than 150 people have been killed in spiraling violence since April, threatening the 2002 cease-fire brokered by Norway.
The latest violence comes as Japan the island's top aid donor prepared to send envoy Yasushi Akashi to discuss ``the current situation of the peace process'' with President Mahinda Rajapakse and other government officials, the Japanese Embassy said in a statement Friday.
The statement said the embassy was ``seeking the possibility'' for him to travel to rebel-held north to meet with rebel leadership.
Sri Lankan troops killed seven suspected rebels Thursday when they attacked a checkpoint in the northern town of Nelliady in the Jaffna Peninsula, which ethnic Tamil separatists consider part of their homeland.
Peace talks originally scheduled for last month in Switzerland were postponed due to disputes between the two sides over travel arrangements and the recent spiraling violence.
The Tigers began fighting in 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination. More than 65,000 people died in the conflict before the truce.
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Published: Fri May 5 09:02:42 EDT 2006