Sri Lanka navy sink rebel boats, kill 8: military

September 30, 2008 (AFP) – A Sri Lanka navy patrol destroyed two Tamil Tiger boats, killing eight rebels on board, in a clash at sea off the island’s northern Pooneryn region, the defence ministry said Tuesday.

The navy did not give its own losses during the battle, which occurred late Monday. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for an independent homeland since 1972, did not comment.

The attack came as ground troops push deeper into the guerillas’ political capital of Kilinochchi, where the LTTE run their own police, courts and banks and meet visiting foreign dignitaries.

Monday’s clash raised the number of rebels reported killed by government forces to 7,021 since January, when Colombo pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire.

The defence ministry has acknowledged the loss of 686 of its soldiers over the same period.

Casualty figures cannot be independently verified since the ministry blocks independent journalists from travelling to the conflict areas. Tens of thousands have died on both sides in one of Asia’s longest running conflicts.