Seven Sri Lankan sailors missing after sea battle: military

Feb 5, 2008 (AFP) – Seven Sri Lankan sailors and their craft were missing on Tuesday following a sea battle with suspected Tamil Tiger guerrillas off the island’s northwest coast, military officials said. The clashes erupted when two navy speedboats moved to push back a fleet of poaching fishermen from neighbouring India, a military official said.

“We suspect Tigers had taken the cover of Indian fishermen to attack the naval craft,” a military official said, adding that a search was underway for the seven missing sailors and their boats.

The clash came on Monday when Sri Lanka marked its 60th anniversary of independence from Britain amid tight security, but celebrations were overshadowed by a string of bomb attacks that killed 14 people and wounded 20.

The island’s President Mahinda Rajapakse had earlier said the war against the Tamil Tigers was being won. There was no immediate comment from the rebels, who have been fighting for independence since 1972.