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Suspected LTTE trawler blast sinks Lankan naval attack craft

Written by: Staff
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Colombo, Mar 25 (UNI) A suspected LTTE arms trawler blew up sinking an approaching Sri Lankan naval Fast Attack Craft (FAC) with 19 sailors on board off north-western Mannar district today.

According to military sources, at least six LTTE cadres have been killed and while 11 of the sailors escaped the blast, eight are still missing.

Military spokesman Brig Prasad Samarasinghe told UNI over phone that an Israeli-built naval FAC, on a tip-off, was approaching a suspected LTTE fishing trawler carrying arms and ammunition from the Southern region for interception at Kuthiraimalai (17 nautical km west of Mannar island), ''when the LTTE trawler with six LTTE cadres onboard self-exploded with deafening noise''.

''The explosion was so high that it damaged the Naval craft on the approach, which sank subsequently. Nineteen naval sailors were on board of the ill-fated craft. Eleven sailors had been rescued by the local fishermen while eight are still missing,'' Brig Samarasinghe said, adding, all six LTTE cadres were killed in the explosion.

This is the first major incident of this nature after the Government and the LTTE agreed at the two-day direct talks in Geneva last month to take confidence building measures before going for the next round of talks in mid-April.

While the Tamil Tigers have promised to stop attacks on the government security forces and police, President Rajapakse's government has pledged to take relevant steps against the armed groups, whom the LTTE accused of being harboured and used by the military against the Tigers.

Brig Samarasinghe said the military had deployed several naval gun boats in the Northern and Eastern seas earlier in the day following the tip-off of an alleged arrival of an LTTE arms vessel.

''We suspect that the LTTE fishing trawler must have been transporting arms and ammunitions from the big ship from the South to the LTTE-held Mannar region at the time of the incident,'' the military spokesman charged.

There is no immediate reaction from the LTTE in this regard.

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