COLOMBO, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- At least 40 Tamil Tiger
rebels and one naval officer were killed in a fierce sea battle off the coast of
Sri Lanka's northern Jaffna peninsula on Wednesday, defense officials said.
Military Spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said 12 naval fast attack craft began to engage a Sea Tiger flotilla composed of 16 boats in the seas south off Delft island around 11:00 a.m. (0530 GMT), and the Air Force was also called to support the Navy.
Sri Lankan Navy boats patrol the waters off Trincomalee port, September 2007. At least 40 Tamil Tiger rebels and one naval officer were killed in a fierce sea battle off the coast of Sri Lanka's northern Jaffna peninsula on Wednesday. (Xinhua/AFP File Photo)
Nanayakkara said in the four-hour sea battle, the
Navy destroyed at least nine LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) boats and a
naval attack craft was seriously damaged after being attacked by two LTTE
"The body of the officer-in-charge of the naval craft
has been found and 10 sailors are still missing," said the spokesman, adding
that searching operation is still going on in the area.
He said the LTTE boats were smuggling arms when they
were found by the Navy near Delft, the farthest and biggest of the inhabited
islands off the Jaffna peninsula.
Sources close to the LTTE said a naval fast attack
craft was sunk by the LTTE and two craft were damaged in the battle.
Clashes between government troops and the LTTE have
been largely shifted to the north after the government said in July that the
entire Eastern Province was free of rebels.
Claiming discrimination at the hands of the Sinhala
majority, the LTTE has been fighting the government since the mid-1980s to
establish a separate homeland for the minority Tamils in the north and east.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in the new
wave of violence since the end of 2005, making the Norwegian brokered ceasefire
agreement exist only on paper.