Tamil Tigers blamed for attack on Sri Lankan Navy

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Saturday, January 7, 2006

13 sailors have been reported killed and others missing or injured after suspected Tamil Tiger guerrillas attacked a naval vessel off northeastern Sri Lanka early Saturday. Sri Lankan military say it was one of the worst attacks by the sea Tigers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

According to defence officials, the Sri Lankan Navy fast attack craft was sunk in the early hours of Saturday by a heavy explosion carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels. The Sri Lankan sailors were on patrol when a boat rigged with explosives rammed their vessel off the port of Trincomalee.

Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) said two of the injured sailors had been recovered, who were believed to have been thrown out by the power of the explosion.

The LTTE has stepped up attacks against security forces in northern and eastern Sri Lanka since President Mahinda Rajapakse was elected on November 17th and invited the rebels to renew negotiations with the government.

With Saturday's blast, over 65 security personnel and police officers have been killed in rebel attacks since the election.

The attack follows LTTE reports of army abuses and killings. The government is investigating one such incident after five Tamil youths, whom the army said were blown up by their own grenade, were found shot dead.

The Tigers say they want a political solution to the conflict, which has killed more than 64,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands since 1983.

A similar attack on the navy in Trincomalee harbour killed 12 sailors and led to the collapse of a previous ceasefire in 1995.

In December, 39 military personnel were killed in a string of mine attacks, the deadliest month since a 2002 ceasefire that some say is strained to breaking point.