The navy detained an Indonesian-registered ship off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka to investigate any possible ties with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels as fighting in the north killed 15 guerrillas, the military said yesterday.
The ship was drifting when it was detected about 160km off the island's eastern coast on Tuesday morning and navy troops boarded the ship for an investigation, a defense ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
The navy is questioning the 12-member Indonesian crew, the official said, adding that it would conduct a full investigation to check if the ship had any links with the Tamil Tigers.
The official said the ship's captain told the navy that his vessel was sailing from the Indian city of Mumbai to Thailand and that the vessel started drifting when it ran out of fuel.
The Tamil Tigers have been known to smuggle arms aboard ships during their more than two-decade conflict against government forces.
In September, the navy claimed it sank three rebel ships packed with weapons and light aircraft, nearly destroying what remained of the separatists' smuggling fleet.
Fighting across northern Sri Lanka -- where the separatist rebels control a de facto state -- has intensified in recent months.
In the latest violence, soldiers clashed with Tamil guerrillas in several villages along the front lines in the Vavuniya District on Tuesday, just south of rebel-held territory, the official said.
The fighting killed 15 insurgents, he said.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels, and verification of the military's claims was impossible because the region is off limits to the media.
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