Sri Lankan navy repulses Tamil rebel attack, 12 rebels, 5 sailors killed, says official.
Wed June 28, 2006 10:32 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Twelve Tamil rebels and five Sri Lankan sailors were killed Wednesday in a clash near a western naval base, a navy spokesman said the latest violence threatening to cause a four-year cease-fire to completely collapse. Also Wednesday, one soldier was killed in an ambush by suspected separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, while three civilians were found shot dead in troubled eastern Sri Lanka - .
The military also said Wednesday that a veteran officer with experience fighting the separatist Tigers had been named to replace the nation's third-highest-ranking general, who was killed this week in a suspected rebel suicide attack.
Lt. Gen. Parami Kulatunga was cremated with full military honors in the Sri Lankan capital on Wednesday.
The rebels, who want to carve out a separate homeland for Sri Lanka - 's 3.2 million ethnic Tamil minority, often attack Sri Lankan navy positions, saying they will not tolerate intrusion into what they call their territorial waters.
The rebels control one-seventh of Sri Lanka - 's land mass in the northeast and say they have the right to use the adjoining sea.
Wednesday's clash took place off the village of Kalpitiya coast in fishing waters about 140 kilometers (86 miles) northwest of the capital, Colombo. The seas in that area have seen repeated clashes in recent months, with Sea Tiger boats attacking navy patrols.
The rebel flotilla was detected Wednesday by patrol boats as it approached the naval base, and the insurgents promptly attacked, forcing the navy and air force to dispatch help, said the navy spokesman.
``Around 20 Sea Tiger boats had come to attack our camp in Kalpitiya. We retaliated and got help from our air force,'' said spokesman Dassanayake.
Two Tiger boats were destroyed and one navy boat caught fire,he said. The rebels retreated after air force helicopters arrived and fired.
In Colombo, Maj. Gen. Shaman Kulatunga, who led an armored division and has wide experience fighting the separatists during his 33-year career, has taken over the post of deputy chief of staff, the Sri Lankan military said on its Web site.
He replaces Maj. Gen. Parami Kulatunga, who was killed Monday in a suicide bombing blamed on the Tigers. The two men were not related.
Also on Wednesday, the Tigers ambushed an army patrol, killing one soldier and wounding three others in Welioya, about 255 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Colombo, said an official at the media center for national security, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to the media.
Separately, three civilians were found shot dead in eastern town of Eravur in the Batticaloa district, 225 kilometers (140 miles) east of Colombo. ``We found three bodies of youths with gun shot injuries. Their bodies and the motorbike they were traveling have been set on fire, said police chief Maxi Procter.
He said the killings had occurred Tuesday night. The motive of the killing and the identities of the assailants are still unknown.
A rebel was killed in an attack by a suspected breakaway guerrilla group on Tuesday, the rebels said, contradicting the government's claim that four were killed.
The Tamil Tigers blamed the attack on the breakaway faction, which they say colludes with Sri Lanka - 's military to attack the mainstream rebel group, a claim the government denies.
On the Net:
Sri Lankan Military: http://www.army.lk
Pro-rebel Web-site: http://www.TamilNet.com
Published: Wed Jun 28 13:08:33 EDT 2006