COLOMBO, Sept 17, 2007 (AFP) – Navy chiefs in Sri Lanka organised a party Monday to welcome back teams involved in what they claim was the government’s biggest success to date against Tamil separatists. The six patrol craft and their supply ships were reported last week to have sunk three Tamil Tiger gun-running ships in international waters 600 nautical miles (1,100 kilometres) off the island’s southeastern coast.
The Sri Lankan defence ministry said the rebel vessels were carrying light aircraft, an armoured car and artillery.
It claimed an estimated 45 guerrillas were killed in the operation.
It said navy chiefs in the port of Trincomalee held a “felicitation ceremony” for the vessels and crew returning from what one admiral called the navy’s “biggest triumph in the entire Eelam (separatist) conflict.”
The government invited press photographers to Trincomalee, 260 kilometres (160 miles) northeast of Colombo, for Monday’s celebrations.
There has been no reaction from the Tigers to the claims, which the navy says reduced the Tiger’s fleet to just one ship.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for a separate state since 1972, depend on smugg