Sri Lankan sailors dead, more captured |

Sri Lankan sailors dead, more captured

Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan separatist rebels clashed with government navy and air forces Thursday off the northern Jaffna peninsula, with rebels claiming they killed 26 sailors and capturing four others.The fighting comes as the United Nations denounced the Sri Lankan military’s shelling of a school Wednesday in a rebel-controlled area in which at least 23 Tamil civilians were killed and scores injured.”The U.N. condemns in the strongest possible terms the shelling by the security forces of the government of Sri Lanka on defenseless civilians sheltering in Kathiraveli School in Vaharai yesterday,” the U.N. said in a statement.”The killing and wounding of displaced persons is unjustifiable and a violation of the most basic humanitarian norms,” the statement said.In the latest fighting, the Tamil Tigers’ military spokesman, Rasiah Ilanthirayan, told The Associated Press that his rebel forces had “killed at least 25 sailors” and found the body of another. He said four sailors were captured following Thursday’s battle.Ilanthirayan said five rebel fighters also died in the attack, in which they sunk one of the navy’s fast attack craft and damaged another.Military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said the navy, assisted by the air force, destroyed 22 of 26 rebel boats.He did not provide casualty figures and the rebel death toll claims couldn’t be independently verified.Fighting has intensified since peace talks last month between the separatist rebels and the government broke down in Geneva, Switzerland over the reopening of a major highway connecting Tamil-dominated areas in the north with the rest of the country.The Geneva talks were aimed at reviving a 2002 cease-fire accord that halted 19 years of fighting but has all but disintegrated amid violence that has killed at least 2,000 combatants and civilians this year.The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate Tamil homeland in the country’s north and east, citing discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.—Associated Press reporters Bharatha Mallawarachi and Ruwan Weerakoon contributed to this report.—On the Net:Military Web site: http://www.nationalsecurity.lkTamil rebel Web site:

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