Sea battles in Sri Lanka, government under fire over killings

Nov 10, 2006 (AFP) – Tamil rebels and Sri Lanka’s navy fought a fierce sea battle Friday amid mounting international condemnation over heavy civilian casualties in the separatist conflict. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) destroyed two naval gunboats in fighting overnight Thursday, with the navy hitting back in the morning and destroying two rebel craft.

Some 31 combatants were killed in the fighting.

In further violence, gunmen assassinated a pro-rebel Tamil legislator while he was travelling to work in the capital.

Gunmen sprayed Nadarajah Raviraj’s vehicle with bullets Friday, before they escaped on a motorcycle in the busy Narahenpita area, police said.

The politician’s bodyguard was also killed.

The attacks came as the United Nations and the United States joined Amnesty International in severely criticising Wednesday’s shelling by the Sri Lankan army that left at least 65 Tamil civilians dead in the island’s east.

The “massive attack on civilians shows that force continues to be used indiscriminately in the conflict in Sri Lanka,” UN relief coordinator Jan Egeland said.

“Equally disturbing are reports that the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eel