Sri Lanka says it sank rebel boat loaded with arms, killing 5
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ The Sri Lankan navy destroyed a trawler loaded with arms along the western coast on Sunday, killing at least five Tamil Tiger separatists and sparking a huge explosion, the military said.
In the north, the rebels blindfolded three ethnic Sinhalese civilians, tied their hands and fatally shot them, and a rebel attack in the Jaffna Peninsula left two soldiers dead, officials said.
Navy patrol boats spotted the trawler off Mannar in northwestern Sri Lanka _ about 220 kilometers (136 miles) from Colombo _ and fired warning shots, a Defense Ministry official said on condition of anonymity in line with policy.
The rebels shot back, triggering a fierce response from the navy, which fired at the trawler for about 10 minutes, setting off a large explosion, he said. The craft sank, killing suspected five rebels, while three sailors were wounded, he said.
``Considering the explosion that occurred on the trawler, we believe that it was transporting a large quantity of explosives and arms,'' the official said.
In northern Vavuniya, three Sinhalese and two Muslims were captured by the rebels after traveling to the area to collect mangoes for business, said area police spokesman Kumar Sandanayake.
He said the Muslims were set free, but the Sinhalese were killed.
Meanwhile, Tamil Tigers fired artillery and mortars at military positions on the northern Jaffna Peninsula on Saturday night, killing two soldiers and wounding 13 others, an officer at the Media Center for National Security said on condition of anonymity, citing policy.
Troops repulsed the attack using artillery and mortars, he said.
Rebel casualties were not immediately known.
Heavy fighting along the same defense line on Wednesday left hundreds of combatants dead in some of the bloodiest clashes since the two sides signed a 2002 cease-fire accord.
The military controls almost all of the peninsula _ which the rebels claim as the cultural heart of the country's ethnic Tamil minority _ but small pockets are held by the separatists.
Tiger political chief Suppiah Thamilselvan agreed Tuesday to attend peace talks with the government, which Norwegian peace brokers said would take place in Switzerland on Oct. 28-29.
Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi, meanwhile, was scheduled to arrive in Colombo on Sunday for a five-day visit to try to strengthen efforts to bring peace to the tropical island. He is to hold talks separately with government and rebel officials.
The government said Thursday it remains committed to the scheduled talks despite the continued fighting.
About 2,000 people have died in fighting this year, according to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, which was set up to oversee the cease-fire.
The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the Tamil minority in the north and east, citing decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. About 65,000 people were killed before the 2002 cease-fire.
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Published: Sun Oct 15 08:48:37 EDT 2006