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Sri Lanka military and rebels battles kill dozen News

[Reuters, Tuesday, 20 January 2009 07:33 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s military clashed with Tamil Tigers rebels at sea and on land in battles that killed dozens of combatants, both sides said on Tuesday.


The military is fighting to corner the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the eastern port Mullaittivu, and the army said it had killed 21 rebels in a series of battles on Monday.


The Tigers said they killed 35 soldiers and wounded 60 on Monday, pro-rebel website www.TamilNet.com reported.


Both sides also said they fought a sea battle off of Mullaittivu. The navy said it destroyed four Tiger boats, including one rigged for a suicide attack, while one of its own ships was damaged.


"The navy observed 10 to 12 LTTE boats last night at 11:30. Fast-attack boats and the Special Boat Squadron attacked and destroyed four terrorist boats," navy spokesman Captain D.K.P. Dassanayake said. He had no details of LTTE casualties.


The Tigers said they sank a navy fast attack boat called a Dvora.


"A flotilla of Sea Tigers intercepted a convoy of Sri Lankan navy Dvora fast attack crafts. A fierce sea battle ensued. One Super Dvora was sunk by the Black Sea Tigers," the website said quoting unnamed LTTE officials.


Black Tigers are the rebels’ elite suicide units.


The navy has put up a blockade to prevent Tiger leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran and others from escaping by sea, with ground troops rapidly encircling the separatists’ final strongholds around Mullaittivu.


Army Commander Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka said at the weekend the elusive Tiger founder may have already fled Sri Lanka.


Prabhakaran is wanted by Interpol and India for the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 by a suicide bomber, plus other suicide attacks and killings of Sri Lankan civilians and politicians including Tamils.


On January 2, soldiers captured the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) self-proclaimed capital of Kilinochci, in a crushing blow to the Tigers’ separatist plans, which are at the heart of a war that has raged off and on since 1983.

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