Sri Lanka steps up air strikes after sea battle

November 2, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military stepped up air attacks against Tamil Tiger rebels in the island’s north after a sea battle left heavy casualties on both sides, officials said Sunday. War planes hit a suspected training base for Tamil Tiger guerrillas at Iranamadu, just south of the guerrillas’ political capital of Kilinochchi, on Sunday morning, defence officials said.

“The fighter jets accurately hit the target,” spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara said.

He did not say if there were reports of casualties.

The military carried out the air strikes shortly after the Tigers staged an attack against a naval patrol off the island’s northern coast on Saturday, sparking heavy fighting.

The defence ministry said the 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 vessel and a hovercraft.

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

The Tigers said the navy was forced to withdraw from the area after suffering “heavy losses.”