COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan navy and a Tamil Tiger rebel ship suspected of smuggling arms exchanged fire off the island's northeast coast yesterday and the rebel vessel was on fire and sinking, the navy said.
It was the second incident at sea in the last two months.
Navy spokesman Jayantha Perera said four of its sailors were injured in the clash in international waters.
“We asked the ship to stop and it didn't, so then we started firing across the bow to warn them. They started firing back, and four of our men are injured,” Perera said.
“Now the ship is on fire, it is sinking,” he said.
Nordic monitors of a truce first agreed in February last year said the rebels had confirmed one of their ships was involved.
“It has been confirmed from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that it is one of their vessels, a merchant or a freighter,” said Hagrup Haukland, the deputy head of the monitors.
“They are very much concerned because this incident happened in international waters. They are looking very, very seriously upon it,” he said.
The rebels and government have been observing the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire for more than a year and are set to meet for a sixth round of direct talks on ending the 19-year ethnic war in Tokyo next week, but there have been a number of clashes at sea.
Last month's talks were overshadowed by the suicides of three rebels who blew up their boat after being caught by the navy with a cache of weapons. Two truce monitors and a translator jumped overboard to escape the explosion after boarding the boat to investigate.
Under the terms of the ceasefire agreement neither side is allowed to move military equipment into areas controlled by the other, although they are allowed to maintain their forces.
A local newspaper reported on Sunday the rebels had attempted to procure Russian weapons through the Russian embassy in Laos. –Reuters
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