LTTE vessel carrying explosives destroyed: Sri Lankan Navy

December 20th, 2008 - 10:13 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Dec 20 (IANS) A medium-size vessel of the Tamil Tiger rebels was destroyed in a pre-dawn sea battle Saturday off the northeastern Mullaitivu coast, the Sri Lankan Navy said.Navy spokesman Commander Mahesh Karunaratne said surveillance patrol vessels detected the 30-40 metre long vessel of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which was carrying explosives, 70 nautical kilometres northeast around 1.30 a.m.

The navy’s fast attack craft operating in the vicinity were called in to engage the rebel vessel.

“In the ensuing naval fire that lasted for around 30 minutes, the enemy logistics vessel was completely destroyed. It sank engulfed in a huge ball of fire as the naval attack craft mounted fire on it, confirming that it was carrying a large quantity explosives and ammunitions to the north,” Karunaratne told IANS.

He said four LTTE attack craft that were providing security cover to the logistic vessel were also destroyed during the gunbattle.

“We believe that at least 24 Sea Tiger cadres would have been killed during this pre-dawn clash that has lasted nearly two hours. There was no damage to the navy,” the navy spokesman said.

There was no immediate reaction from the LTTE, which has been fighting against the Sri Lankan state to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the island nation for a quarter century.

The fresh sea battle has taken place at a time when ground troops have been locked in pitched battles with the rebels in the northern Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts over the past few months.

The troops advancing in several directions were said to be operating in the outskirts of LTTE’s political capital, Kilinochchi, about 350 kilometers north of here, despite fierce rebel counter attacks.

Thousands have died in escalating fighting since late 2005.

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