A sea battle has broken out between government patrol boats and Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka's northern sea.This is just the latest in a weeks long smash up between the Tamil Tigeres and Sri Lankan government forces. The latest round has included a aerial bombing attack on the Tiger boat yard, reported here:
The fighting erupted when naval boats intercepted a flotilla of Tamil rebel boats near Point Pedro on the northern Jaffna peninsula, officials said.
They told the BBC six rebel boats had been sunk, with all those on board believed dead. The naval boats were said to have come under attack.
There has so far been no comment from the rebel side.
The battle comes after the UN warned it may suspend aid operations in the country amid renewed violence.
An attack-sea-craft manufacturing facility of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was destroyed recently when Sri Lankan air force planes bombed a boatyard in Tiger-held territory. The Sri Lankan Defense Ministry has said that 30-40 of the boats were destroyed in the attack. The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website rejected the claim, arguing that the planes had hit aThe Tamil Tiger "fleet" has pioneered many terrorist tactics, including the use explosive laden suicide boats.
The attack on the boatyard comes amid fierce fighting, which has claimed more than 800 lives since August 11 when the Tigers launched a major offensive to retake control of the Tamil-dominated but government-held Jaffna Peninsula in the north. The attack was aimed at denting an important but little understood aspect of the organization's military infrastructure - sea power. The two sides have sparred on the seas several times over almost three decades.
In January, the Tigers blew up a Sri Lankan navy gunboat outside Trincomalee harbor. In May, it targeted a naval convoy comprising a troop-carrier vessel, which was ferrying more than 700 unarmed security forces personnel returning after home leave, and its accompanying naval fast attack craft. While the LTTE's flotilla of explosive-laden boats failed to damage the troop carrier, it was able to destroy two gunboats, killing at least 17 sailors.
More recently, the Tigers targeted another vessel carrying 854 unarmed soldiers to Trincomalee and simultaneously attacked the naval base there.
Some of the most spectacular confrontations between the two sides have taken place on the seas, and both sides have lost vessels in these confrontations. The Sri Lankan navy is said to have lost about half of its force to the LTTE's gunboats.
Boat is "Sea Tiger" boat.