A fierce sea clash erupted between Sri Lanka's navy and Tamil Tiger rebels off the country's east coast overnight, the military said yesterday as two days of ground battles killed 28 combatants in the north and the east.
The sea battle broke out when a flotilla of 15 rebel boats tried to attack naval boats patrolling off Kallarawa, a fishing village in the eastern Trincomalee district on Saturday night, navy spokesman Commander DKP Dassanayake said.
He said the battle lasted nearly an hour, and that the insurgents were believed to have suffered heavy casualties before fleeing.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels.
Hours earlier, a ground battle between navy sailors and rebels in Kuchchaveli village near Trincomalee left three insurgents dead, Dassanayake said. Later, troops recovered three rebel bodies along with rifles, bombs and detonators.
Meanwhile, soldiers ambushed a group of Tamil guerrillas riding on tractors Friday near the eastern area of Thoppigala, killing 15 people. The attack came hours after rebels killed six soldiers in the region in a mortar attack, military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said.
Government forces have cleared the Tamil Tiger guerrillas from much of eastern Sri Lanka, but have been struggling to seize the eastern rebel bastion of Thoppigala for 14 years.
The army began what it called a final push into the area in late April and said recently it hoped to rout the rebels by early next week. However, previous claims of imminent victory have proven premature.
In other violence, insurgents attacked soldiers in the northern Vavuniya district on Friday, but troops fought back and killed two guerrillas, the Defense Ministry said.