Sri Lanka sinks three rebel boats

June 19, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s navy attacked a flotilla of Tamil Tiger boats off the island’s northern coast Tuesday, sinking at least three craft, an official said. The latest naval battle came as troops in the east of the island stepped up pressure on the guerrillas who have been fighting for independence since 1972. More than 60,000 people are reported to have been killed in the conflict. “There was a cluster of about 20 boats and the navy engaged them,” military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said. “We suspect this was a diversionary move by the Tigers.”

He said the guerrillas usually put out large flotillas to engage the navy to provide cover for guerrilla sea or land movements elsewhere. There were no casualties among sailors in the sea battle.

It was not immediately clear if the guerrillas suffered any losses, but the defence ministry said the guerrillas suffered “heavy damages.”

“Sea Tigers with heavy damages are currently withdrawing towards Kadaikadu…,” the ministry said in a statement without giving any estimates for rebel casualties.

The ministry said the navy did not suffer any casualties or damages to their craft following the battle