Separatist Tamil fighters launched a pre-dawn attack early yesterday against a naval camp on an island off northern Sri Lanka, killing at least 13 sailors, a pro-rebel website said.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said its Sea Tiger wing also seized weapons, including a radar, from the camp on Chiraththivu islet, close to the Jaffna peninsula.
"At least 13 Sri Lanka navy personnel were killed and many sailors wounded in the raid carried out by a special marine wing of the Sea Tigers," the Tamilnet.com reported, quoting the LTTE.
"There were no LTTE casualties in the operation," the report said, adding that the rebels "safely returned to their base" after destroying the navy camp.
However, Sri Lanka's defence ministry said army and navy personnel successfully repulsed the rebels, killing at least 16 LTTE cadres and destroying three enemy boats.
"Troops have also mounted heavy artillery attacks towards the fleeing terrorists as enemy fatalities were expected to soar," the ministry said.
Casualty figures given by both sides in the conflict vary wildly and cannot be verified independently.
Elsewhere, according to the military, six civilians were killed and 12 others seriously wounded when the LTTE fired 20 rounds of heavy artillery shells towards two densely populated areas of Jaffna peninsula.
The military earlier said four civilians were killed and six injured in the pre-dawn "indiscriminate LTTE artillery attack."
In the northern town of Vavuniya, three policemen were injured when the LTTE triggered off a roadside mine targeting police vehicles, the ministry said.
It said air force planes stepped up attacks against suspected rebel positions in the north, providing air cover for ground troops and bombing a rebel training facility.
The LTTE campaign for a separate state for minority Tamils from the majority Sinhalese community has left tens of thousands dead since 1972.
Meanwhile, A Sri Lankan journalist working in the war-torn northern region and his friend have been hacked to death, a media rights group said Thursday.