Sri Lanka army clashes with rebel Tamil boats

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COLOMBO, Oct 13 (Reuters) Sri Lanka's military said it sank a Tamil Tiger rebel boat in the north today, killing three rebels on board, but three of its soldiers were missing after their boat was also sunk in the skirmish.

Fighting between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), 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 last month.

Today's battle took place in the volatile north when Sri Lankan army boats escorted fishing boats in Lagoon in Jaffna peninsula.

''We observed some LTTE boats and we destroyed one of the terrorists boats. Our boat was also attacked by them and three soldiers are missing,'' said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.

''The intercepted communications said three terrorists were killed,'' he added.

The LTTE were not immediately available for comment.

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

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

REUTERS GL BD1735

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