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29 killed, several wounded in Navy-LTTE clash off Mannar

Written by: Staff
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Colombo, June 17 (UNI) At least 25 LTTE cadres and four Lankan naval sailors were killed and several more wounded today when Sri Lankan navy engaged in a high-pitch sea battle with a flotilla of Sea Tiger boats off Mannar early this morning, military sources here said.

Ministry of Defence officials said a police post at Pesalai in the Mannar island came under a pre-dawn attack by a group of LTTE cadres, who had come in a flotilla of eleven fiber-glass boats.

''During the army, navy and air force joint operation, eight LTTE boats were destroyed, killing at least 25 LTTE cadres onboard. Four naval sailors were also killed and three more wounded in action,'' a Defence Ministry official said.

Claiming that the situation has now been brought under control, he said that three Naval water-jet patrol boats were also damaged during sea battle.

Meanwhile, pro-LTTE Tamilnet website in a report accused that, ''the Sri Lanka Navy troopers had opened fire on civilians at the shore in Pesalai,'' wounding over 30 people this morning, after the Navy and the Sea Tiger gunboats clashed in the seas off Pesalai, 15 km northwest of Mannar.

''Civilians in hundreds have sought refuge at the Church of Our Lady of Victory, St. Mary and St Fatima schools in Pesalai,'' the Tamilnet report said.

However, the Defence Ministry official denied this allegation and counter-accused that ''it is the LTTE cadres, as usual who open fire at civilians at the Church premises and wounded 15-20 civilians''.

There was no immediate reaction from LTTE in this regard so far.

Meanwhile, two suspected LTTE cadres swallowed cyanide capsules at Negombo in the outskirts of Colombo when the police on information attempted to arrest them.

According to the Defence Ministry official, three suspected LTTE cadres were found moving suspiciously with ''diving equipment'' at a coastal village in Negombo and two of them swallowed the deadly cyanide capsules while one is missing.

''A cordon and search operation is underway in and around Negombo area to apprehend the missing LTTE cadre, while the other two suspects have been rushed to the Ragama hospital,'' he said.

Air Force helicopters were seen hovering over Negombo and suburb area during the search operation.

UNI XC PR BD1109

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