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Sri Lankan Navy Sinks 9 Rebel Boats in Offshore Battle

By VOA News
26 December 2007

Sri Lankan military officials say a naval battle with rebels off the country's northwest coast has killed at least 40 Tamil Tiger fighters and has sunk nine rebel boats.

Officials say attack boats and helicopter gunships targeted 16 rebel boats near the Jaffna peninsula. At least one navy vessel was damaged when it was rammed by two suicide boats. Rebels claimed they sank one navy ship and damaged another.

The government says the rebel ships were involved in smuggling weapons.

Sri Lanka has stepped up navy patrols to intercept ships smuggling weapons for the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross says aid workers face greater danger in trying to reach displaced people in the country.

The organization says the killing of three aid workers has hampered efforts to reach people fleeing the fighting - including some 50,000 newly displaced people in the Tamil districts of Batticaloa and Trincomalee. Red Cross officials called on the government to investigate the aid worker killings.

The Tamil Tiger rebels are fighting for an independent homeland, claiming discrimination by Sri Lanka's majority-Sinhalese population.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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