Sri Lanka navy sinks 3 boats, kills 28 Tiger rebels

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COLOMBO, Sep 28 (Reuters) Sri Lanka's navy sank three Tamil Tiger rebel boats off the island's northeastern coast, killing 18 rebels on board and 10 others died in subsequent land battles, the military said today.

Fighting between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who want a separate homeland for minority ethnic Tamils in the north and east, has escalated since the government launched an offensive in the northwest earlier this month.

The latest sea battle took place late yesterday when Sri Lankan government boats sighted 20 rebel vessels in the seas off Pulmudai, near the rebels' de facto state in the far north.

''The navy destroyed three boats and after listening to communications they confirmed 18 Tigers killed, including a leader,'' said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanaykkara.

''One navy sailor was killed and another injured,'' he added.

The Military also said they killed ten Tamil Tiger rebels in clashes on Friday in the north western district of Mannar and northern districts of Vavuniya and Jaffna.

''(The) army killed six LTTE carders in Mannar when they tried to attack (the) army and in another retaliation soldiers killed three terrorists in Vavuniya,'' a spokesman for Media Centre for National Security said adding that another rebel was killed in Jaffna.

There was no independent confirmation of the number of people killed or what had happened and analysts say both sides often exaggerate enemy losses amid a parallel propaganda war.

No official from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was immediately available for a comment.

Around 5,000 people have been killed in fighting between the military and the LTTE guerrillas since early 2006.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the war erupted in 1983.

REUTERS AE RAI2353

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