Sri Lanka says 18 Tigers killed in sea battle

April 4, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lankan security forces destroyed three Tamil Tiger boats on Saturday and killed at least 18 guerrillas trying to escape a major military ground offensive, defence officials said. Tiger rebels are battling to resist a military assault that has pushed them into a 20-square-kilometre (eight-square-mile) patch of land in the northeast coastal district of Mullaittivu.

The navy’s special boat squadron sank one vessel belonging to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) while two others were destroyed by ground troops when they tried to beach, a military spokesman said.

The military believed that at least 11 rebels were killed by the navy while another seven perished when the army directed ground fire at Tiger boats that were trying to get to shore, he said.

The defence ministry said two sailors were wounded and three naval craft slightly damaged during the confrontation.

The guerrillas were believed to be leaving a narrow strip of land that is still under their control when the battle erupted.

Sri Lankan troops captured a key village from the Tigers on Friday after heavy fighting that left at least 44 guerrillas dead while another 13 rebels were kil