Colombo: Tamil rebels ambushed a navy camp in northern Sri Lanka and said they killed 35 sailors in the attack early on 24 May, while a bomb blast near an army bus in the capital wounded four soldiers and a civilian, the government said.
Tamil Tiger rebels attacked the navy base at Delft in a flotilla of 15 boats, and navy sailors sank one of them in attempts to repulse the ambush, navy spokesman Commander D. K. P Dassanayake said.
But the rebels swiftly overran the base and later found the bodies of 35 sailors, rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan told The Associated Press by telephone. He said four insurgents also were killed in the assault.
“The fighting lasted only 20 minutes and we completely overran the camp,” Ilanthirayan said, adding that the insurgents returned to their own base soon after the raid.
The military did not immediately have details of the casualties in the violence, and the rebels’ death toll could not be independently verified. The military and rebels routinely deny and contradict each other’s casualty tolls.
Later on 24 May morning in the capital, Colombo, a bomb exploded near a bus carrying soldiers, an official at the Defense Ministry’s information center said, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing ministry policy.
He said the bomb was fastened to a motorcycle parked by the roadside. Four soldiers and a civilian were wounded, he said.
The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate homeland for the island nation’s minority ethnic Tamils, who have suffered decades of discrimination under the Sinhalese-dominated government.
Nearly 70,000 people have died in the conflict, including about 5,000 killed since December 2005, when violence flared despite a 2002 cease-fire that is now in tatters.