V.S. Sambandan

50 Tigers killed in counter attack, says navy

COLOMBO: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on Thursday attacked a naval convoy off northern Sri Lanka, in a "serious violation" of the four-year ceasefire agreement.

One naval Fast Attack Craft (FAC) was sunk and five LTTE Sea Tiger boats were destroyed in the battle, the navy said. "At least 17 sailors, who were on board the FAC, are missing in action. We expect the LTTE casualties to be at least 50 cadres, as each LTTE craft normally has 10 to 12 persons on board," naval spokesperson D.K.P. Dassanayake told The Hindu .

The troop carrier, which was plying between the north and east when it was attacked by the Sea Tigers is "now safe" and in international waters, Helen Olafsdottir, spokesperson for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) told The Hindu . She said the LTTE's "sea movements and attacks" were a "serious violation" of the ceasefire agreement. Reports from LTTE-held north spoke of two aerial strikes by fighter jets over the rebel territory on Thursday evening. The military said it had "no information" on the aerial sorties. Ms. Olafsdottir said there were reports of "aerial strikes" but no confirmation of the targets or the casualties.

According to the army spokesperson's office, after the troop carrier was attacked by the Sea Tigers, "our naval troops retaliated and destroyed five LTTE boats."

Commenting on Thursday's attack, the SLMM said: "The sea surrounding Sri Lanka is a Government controlled area. This has been ruled so by the Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission in line with international law. Non-state actors cannot rule open sea waters or airspace. The LTTE has therefore no rights at sea," the SLMM said. The SLMM also urged the Government "not to be pushed by these provocative acts and to show as much restraint as possible."

It also wanted the LTTE to "immediately cease all activities and operations at sea as they are a serious violation of the CFA. This sort of reckless behaviour can only lead to a dangerous escalation resulting in growing hostilities and jeopardising any possibility of future talks."

Civilians killed

AP reports: New violence left two civilians dead and at least three persons wounded in northern Sri Lanka on Thursday.

Suspected Tamil Tigers threw grenades at an army checkpoint in Jaffna, wounding one soldier and triggering a gunfight in which one of the attackers was also injured.