Sri Lanka says naval battle kills five rebels, 3 sailors
Wed June 11, 2008 01:31 EDT .
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Several rebel boats launched a pre-dawn attack on a Sri Lankan navy outpost Wednesday, sparking a battle that killed five Tamil Tiger fighters and three sailors, the military said.
The rebel attack took place about 2:15 a.m. at a base off the coast of Mannar, near the front lines of the raging civil war that has engulfed northern Sri Lanka - , military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
Sailors at the base retaliated, destroying one boat and killing five rebels, while three sailors were killed, Nanayakkara said, adding that it was unclear how many rebel boats were involved.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan disputed that account, saying the raid killed 10 government troops, while four rebels were also killed.
The Tamil Tiger fighters seized control of the base for about two hours, chasing off the troops and plundering the weapons stored there before withdrawing, Ilanthirayan said. No rebel boats were destroyed, he said.
``Nobody was there to destroy us. Apart from the dead left behind, all the people manning the post fled the scene,'' he said.
The two sides routinely release contradictory statements about battles. Independent confirmation of the accounts is not possible because reporters are not allowed into the war zone.
Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the ethnic minority Tamils in the island's north and east. Tamils have faced marginalization by successive governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority.
The government captured the rebels' eastern strongholds last year and has vowed to force the group out of its de facto state in the north by the end of the year.Discuss this story
Published: Wed Jun 11 06:56:10 EDT 2008