Tigers capture sailors in sea battle, Sri Lanka regrets killings

Nov 9, 2006 (AFP) – Tamil Tigers sank two naval gunboats and captured four sailors in a fierce sea battle Thursday, the rebels said, as Sri Lanka expressed regret over the killing of 65 civilians in an artillery blitz. The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they sank two Dvora gunboats and damaged a third in close-quarter fighting off the island’s northern peninsula of Jaffna and estimated navy losses at 25 killed.

“We did not use any suicide boats,” LTTE spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan said, denying defence ministry reports that a Tiger explosive-laden boat rammed a gunboat and sank it and destroyed another.

Ilanthiriyan said they boarded the second Dvora, removed all weapons and ammunition aboard and then set it ablaze and sank it.

He placed Tiger losses at five killed and said they had also captured the body of one dead Sri Lankan sailor.

The ferocious battle came as peace broker Norway expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in the island where Oslo has been trying to broker peace at the invitation of the government and the LTTE.

Norway’s International Development Minister Erik Solheim said Oslo had also demanded an immediate explanation from the Sri Lankan government over