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Sri Lanka Military Repulses Rebel Suicide Attack - 2001-09-16

A flotilla of 20 rebel boats has attacked a Sri Lankan troop transport ship. Eleven military personnel were killed and 47 wounded among the 12-hundred soldiers and sailors on board. Sri Lanka's military says at least 15 rebels were killed during the attack. The navy says a coastal patrol vessel is missing.

Navy officials in Sri Lanka say a flotilla of explosive-laden rebel boats tried to sink a troop transport ship off the island's northeastern coast.

According to Sri Lanka's military spokesman, Brigadier Sanath Karanuratne, rebel suicide cadres were hoping to inflict heavy casualties on the 1,200 troops on board.

He says the attack was repulsed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships, which sank several rebel boats.

The rebels have not commented on the attack.

The spokesman said the ship was not seriously damaged and continued its journey from the eastern port of Trincomalee to the main theater of Sri Lanka's civil war, the northern Jaffna Peninsula.

Tamil rebels have been fighting for a separate state in Sri Lanka's north and east since 1983. The fighting has claimed more than 6,400 lives.

The attack comes after Sri Lanka's unstable ruling coalition swore in a new and drastically reduced cabinet as part of a political deal to gain temporary support from a Marxist party.

The rebels say peace talks will not be possible in the current political climate. In a warning issued to civilians Saturday, the rebels said they would step up mortar attacks on military camps in some parts of the island.