Tigers deny killing Sri Lanka sailors, accuse navy of attack

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels denied abducting and killing three sailors the previous day and accused the navy of launching an attack on their flotilla and sparking a fierce sea battle. Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels denied abducting and killing three sailors the previous day and accused the navy of launching an attack on their flotilla and sparking a fierce sea battle. The statement came Friday after the navy accused the separatist rebels of starting the clash Thursday that has fanned fears about the future of an already fragile ceasefire on the island torn by ethnic conflict.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) told Scandinavian truce monitors that their boats were attacked first by the Sri Lankan navy off the island’s northwestern coast of Mannar.

“When three of our boats were travelling in the Mannar seas, the Sri Lankan navy intercepted the fleet and started firing,” LTTE’s political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan said in a letter to truce monitoring chief Hagrup Haukland.

“Our members had to return fire for self-protection.”

Thamilselvan said the navy retreated, leaving one of their patrol boats behind.

The Tigers noticed three sailors aboard