Three sailors missing in rebel attack on Sri Lankan navy

A foiled attempt by Tamil Tiger rebels to seize a Sri Lankan naval craft off the northwestern coast Thursday left three sailors missing and one wounded, the navy said. The navy captured seven rebels during the attack, said Cmdr. Jayantha Perera. One seaman was wounded in the assault and three more went missing and were presumed captured by the separatist rebels, Perera said.

About 10 rebel boats surrounded the naval craft and started firing on it at Talaimannar, 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Colombo, he said.

"We put up resistance and fired in self defense," he said. He gave no information about how the rebels were captured. The rebels did not immediately comment on the failed attack. Telephone calls by The Associated Press to the rebels' Media Unit in the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi rang unanswered Thursday.

The attack was the first on the Sri Lankan navy since an upsurge in guerrilla violence began earlier this month. Since Dec. 4, at least 20 government soldiers have died and many more injured in attacks blamed on the Tamil Tigers, heavily straining a 2002 Norway-brokered cease-fire between the government and the insurgents.

The Tamil Tigers began fighting in 1983 for a separate homeland in the country's north and east for the minority Tamils, claiming discrimination at the hands of the majority Sinhalese. The ethnic conflict killed some 65,000 people, reports the AP. I.L.

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