Sri Lankan troop ship fights off rebel attack

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Sri Lankan troop ship fights off rebel attack Dayan Candappa Monday, September 17, 2001 at 09:30 JST

COLOMBO A Sri Lankan navy ship carrying more than 1,200 government troops survived a rebel suicide attack on Sunday, fighting off a flotilla of Tamil Tiger guerrilla boats in a fierce sea battle.

Military sources said the vessel, The Pride of the South, was surrounded by more than 20 rebel boats, some of them packed with explosives, about 40 km off the northern port of Point Pedro. "Security forces successfully repulsed the terrorist attack on the navy vessel transporting 1,200 soldiers to the north," state radio said.

Military spokesman Brigadier Sanath Karunaratne told Reuters that 11 government troops were killed, 12 were missing and 43 wounded in the attack. Airforce and naval units had destroyed four of the rebel boats in the battle that raged for more than one hour, while one government coastal patrol boat was destroyed. The military estimated that at least a dozen rebels were killed.

The rebels are fighting for a separate minority Tamil state in Sri Lanka's north and east, and often use explosive-laden boats to ram and sink military vessels. It was the second attack in 24 hours by the Sea Tigers, the rebel naval wing, which detonated a suicide boat at the mouth of the eastern port of Trincomalee late on Saturday, damaging one of the navy's Israeli-built Dvora gunboats.

Sri Lanka's 18-year ethnic war has escalated sharply since July 24 when the LTTE devastated the country's only international airport in an attack that destroyed a dozen commercial and military aircraft. The attack also appeared to signal the collapse of a Norwegian-brokered peace bid to end the fighting that has claimed more 64,000 lives. The country's minority government announced a new initiative to revive the peace process two weeks ago but received a stinging rebuff from the rebels who said they would not deal with an unstable regime. (Reuters News)

http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&id=78131

-- Rich Marsh (marshr@airmail.net), September 18, 2001


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