B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: At least three sailors were killed and several others injured as the Navy and LTTE fought an intense battle in Mannar on Wednesday.

The Navy said its outpost at Erukkalampiddi, Mannar Island, came under a predawn attack by the LTTE. A group of Sea Tigers had come in six boats and launched the attack around 2.15 a.m. The sailors defended their post effectively, causing the terrorists to withdraw with their casualties. Four terrorists, including their leader Sirimaran, have died. Also, three sailors have been killed and others wounded during the confrontation, it said.

The Defence Ministry said that Air Force MI-24 helicopters pounded the withdrawing boats in the Gulf of Mannar, targeting the boats fleeing towards Veddithalthievu area. Defence observers are in the view that the terrorists have carried out this attack with the intention of stopping the people in Wanni escaping to the cleared areas, said the Ministry.

On June 5, 13 civilians sought refuge at the Erukkulampiddi Navy detachment. The refugees reportedly told the Navy personnel that thousands were waiting to escape terror's clutches. Reporting the incident, pro-LTTE TamilNet website said the Sea Tigers launched a surprise attack on a Navy camp and brought the installation under their control, seizing arms and military equipment.

The Sea Tiger Marines launched the seaborne lightning strike at 2:08 a.m. and brought the entire installation under their full control within 10 minutes, it said.

TamilNet said four Tiger commandos and nine Sri Lankan troopers were killed. Sea Tigers attributed the mission to the memory of Lt. Col. Kadaafi, a commander of the Sea Tigers Special Engineering Division, who was killed two months ago, said the website.

Separately, Air Force jets launched an air raid targeting an LTTE Forward Defence Line in Muhamalai, Jaffna Peninsula. Air Force spokesperson, Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said the air sorties were launched on observation of intensified activities in the area. The targets were successfully engaged though the exact damage caused to the enemy is yet to be ascertained, the spokesperson said.