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At least 36 killed in Navy-LTTE clash in Mannar

Written by: Staff

Colombo, June 17 (UNI) At least 36 people, including 30 LTTE cadres, were killed in a high-pitch sea battle between the Sri Lankan Navy and a Sea Tiger flotilla off Mannar.

According to a Defence Ministry statement, an intense battle was triggered when a group of LTTE cadres, who had come in a flotilla of fiber-glass boats, mounted a pre-dawn simultaneous attack on a police post at Pesalai and a navy detachment in the Mannar island both from the sea and land.

''LTTE had launched 12 boats to carry out this attack and the Navy has been able to destroy eight boats while damaging another three which resulted in killing at least 30 Sea Tigers. Six Navy personnel have been killed and another three suffered injuries during the confrontation,'' the statement said, adding two Navy boats too were damaged in the attack.

The statement also said the Army artillery fire and MI-24 gunship helicopter of the Air Force had assisted in countering the failed LTTE attack, adding the situation has now been brought under control.

Meanwhile, pro-LTTE Tamilnet website in a report alleged 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, a Defence Ministry official denied this allegation and counter-accused that ''it is the LTTE cadres, who as usual opened fire at civilians on the Church premises and wounded 15-20 civilians''.

There was no immediate reaction from LTTE in this regard.

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

According to the official, three suspected LTTE cadres were found moving suspiciously with ''diving equipment'' at a coastal village in Negombo by the civilians of the area. Two of them swallowed the deadly cyanide capsules while one was missing.

''A cordon and search operation is under way 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.

The Defence Ministry statement said, ''Inquiries into the incident reveal that the LTTE terrorists had been trying to carry out a suicide mission but failed due to the vigilance of civilians in the area.'' Air Force helicopters were seen hovering over Negombo and suburb area during the search operation.


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