Sri Lanka Tigers sink navy craft, heavy land battles erupt

March 22, 2008 (AFP) – Tamil Tiger rebels struck back against a mounting Sri Lankan military offensive on Saturday by sinking a naval fast attack craft, leaving 10 sailors missing, officials said. A navy craft was destroyed in a “mystery blast” caused by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the defence ministry said, adding that the guerrillas appeared to have developed new underwater capabilities.

“The navy suspects the blast was caused by a possible sea mine or due to some underwater weapon” developed by the rebels, the ministry said, adding that there was no sea battle or any guerrilla craft in sight during the sinking.

The military retaliated with combined land-air attacks against suspected Tiger positions, capturing some land in Mannar district, while ground troops killed 15 rebels, the defence ministry said, adding that two soldiers also died.

There was no immediate word from the rebels about the land offensive.

But the LTTE said they sank the navy craft by using three suicide bombers in the pre-dawn attack in high seas off rebel-held Mullaitivu district.

Six sailors from the locally made Dvora-class fast attack craft were rescued by another boat patrolling o