Sri Lanka sea battle claims heavy casualties

November 1, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s navy and Tamil Tiger rebels fought a fierce sea battle off the island’s northern coast Saturday, and heavy casualties were expected on both sides, the two said. The latest sea battle came as Tigers were defending their main northern political capital of Kilinochchi against a ground offensive by security forces. Sri Lanka’s defence ministry said its navy sank at least four rebel boats and killed at least 14 guerrillas while the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they destroyed a navy fast attack craft and a hovercraft.

“Four LTTE attack craft were destroyed, 14 terrorists killed and as many others reported injured in a fierce sea battle that erupted between naval craft and Sea Tigers,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said at least five senior Tiger cadres were among those killed.

The Tigers, in remarks published in the pro-rebel website, said 20 of their attack craft took part in the battle and that they lost seven of their suicide attackers.

The Tigers said the navy was forced to withdraw from the area after the attack, but defence sources said the military had also deployed aircraft to hit the guerrilla floti