Sri Lanka says fighter jets destroy Sea Tiger base
Sri Lankan jets bombed and destroyed a northern Tamil Tiger naval base on Thursday, the military said, a day after a fierce sea battle that left up to 51 rebels and navy sailors dead.
The bombing raid by MiGs and Israeli-made Kfir jets is the latest in a series of air strikes in recent months as President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government seeks to destroy the Tigers militarily to end a new chapter in a 25-year civil war.
"They hit a Sea Tiger special training base in Mullaittivu. They say it was completely destroyed," said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.
The Tigers were not immediately available for comment, and as always there was no independent account of what happened or what the fighter jets hit.
The raid came a day after navy attack boats battled a flotilla of Tamil Tiger vessels off the island's northwest tip, destroying 11 rebel craft and killing an estimated 40 insurgents, the military said.
Eleven navy sailors were missing and presumed dead.
A dozen navy fast-attack craft sank four of the rebel vessels, helicopter gunships and fighter jets sank another five and two rebel suicide vessels were destroyed when they rammed a navy boat which was badly damaged.
"The body of one (dead) sailor was found and 11 are missing, presumed dead," Nanayakkara said. Two other sailors who were on board the damaged vessel were rescued unharmed, he added.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who have fought successive governments for an independent state in the north and east since the war erupted 1983, said late on Wednesday they sank one navy attack boat and badly damaged another.
They said four of their suicide fighters died in the clash.
Wednesday's clash came as thousands of Sri Lankans marked the third anniversary of the 2004 tsunami, which battered two-thirds of the island's coastline and left 35,000 dead or missing.
The military has reported killing hundreds of Tigers in recent weeks, with the death toll from renewed fighting well over 5,000 since early last year.
However, analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own. (Reuters)
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