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At least 100 die in sea battle off Sri Lanka

October 19, 1997

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Navy gunboats attacked a convoy of rebel boats Sunday off Sri Lanka’s northeastern coast, killing more than 100 Tamil insurgents, a military official said.

The casualties were aboard seven rebel boats that were sunk in a five-hour battle, 170 miles northeast of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, said Maj. Kumara Dewage.

Rebel suicide bombers later crashed two explosive-laden boats into a crippled navy boat, killing two government sailors and leaving seven missing, Dewage said.

The military report couldn’t immediately be confirmed independently.

It was the most serious violence in Sri Lanka’s insurgency since the Tamil rebels exploded a truck bomb in central Colombo and battled troops for nine hours Wednesday, leaving 18 dead and 105 wounded. The guerrillas have not claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Saturday, skirmishes between guerrillas and government troops in Sri Lanka’s north and east left eight people dead.

The rebels are fighting for a separate homeland in the country’s north and east, claiming that minority Tamils are discriminated against by the majority Sinhalese, who dominate the government and the military.

The 14-year war has left 50,000 people dead and caused widespread economic hardship in this island nation of 18 million people off the southern tip of India.

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