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Rebels in naval attack.

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Tamil Tiger rebels yesterday sank a merchant vessel used by Sri Lanka's navy while it was moored at the eastern coastal town of Trincomalee, hours before the government held elections in the area. The guerrillas said their Sea Tigers underwater naval commandos launched a pre-dawn attack on the boat while it was being loaded with explosives headed for troops operating in the island's north.

"Commandos from Kangkai Amaran unit of the Sea Tigers took part in the naval mission in destroying the 80m long vessel," the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said. The Sri Lanka navy said the MV Invincible, A-520 logistic vessel, sank when an underwater explosion ripped through it, while it was moored at the Ashroff jetty in Trincomalee harbour, 300 kilometres from Colombo.

"No lives were lost due to the explosion," the defence ministry statement said. Built in the 1970s, the A-520 was a merchant vessel handed over to the Sri Lankan Navy, following a court order after it was apprehended while transporting 254 illegal migrantsA in Tangalle in 2003.

The explosion came hours after a bomb ripped through a crowded cafe in Ampara, the island's east, on Friday killing 12 people and wounding 36. Minutes before the blast, a convoy carrying a key government minister had passed the area, eyewitnesses said but police said the target of the attack was unclear.

The defence ministry blamed the attack on the LTTE, saying the rebels wanted to disrupt the area as the government prepared to hold elections in the eastern province.

Under a million residents in Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara will cast their ballots yesterday to elect 37 officials to run the eastern provincial council.

The local polls, the first in the region after nearly two decades, comes after security forces wrestled the island's east from the LTTE last July. The government has thrown a heavy security blanket around the eastern district pouring over 20,000 security forces personnel into the area to ensure a smooth poll.?

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9SRIL
Date:May 11, 2008
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