Sri Lanka
Suspected rebel attack on Colombo port averted
Jan 27, 2007 - 12:15:31 PM

Colombo, Jan 27 - A major search operation was mounted around Colombo harbour after a possible attempt by suspected Tamil rebels to attack the port was averted, military officials said Saturday.

'Three boats that attempted to infiltrate the restricted area of the harbour have been destroyed by the navy, preventing a possible attack,' said Major S. Rajapaksa, a spokesperson for Sri Lanka's defence ministry.

Initial reports said they believed that all three boats were suspected to be suicide attack crafts.

'One of the boats was destroyed soon after it was detected five nautical miles out of the harbour and another two boats were destroyed 11 nautical miles out of the harbour,' the spokesperson said.

Intensified security around the harbour following threats by Tamil rebels had helped to prevent the infiltration attempt, he said.

There were no immediate details on the people in the boats, but all are presumed dead, said military officials. Naval crafts and helicopters were being used for the search operation while all access roads into the port have been closed.

Tamil rebels in November attempted an attack on the southern port of Galle, but the navy destroyed six boats and prevented a major strike on the harbour. Security was further strengthened in the harbour located at Galle, 117 km south of the capital, since the rebel attempt was averted.

Security forces have stepped up attacks on rebel targets in the eastern part of the country over the past 10 weeks and have been able to capture some of the rebel-controlled areas.

The military has warned that rebels may try to carry out attacks on targets out of the strife-torn north and eastern provinces in a bid to distract the attention of security forces who are conducting operations.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake Friday vowed to carry on with the military offensives against the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -.

Fighting in the north and eastern provinces has escalated during the past year, claiming over 3,200 lives while a Norwegian backed peace process has come to a virtual standstill, with no immediate signs of the government and the LTTE returning to the negotiating table.

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