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Sri Lankan Navy, Tamil Rebels Clash in Northern Sea


The Sri Lankan navy says it sank 12 Tamil Tiger rebel boats during a battle off the country's northern Jaffna peninsula.

Officials say five of the vessels were suicide boats. The Navy says 80 rebels were killed in the battle. But that figure was not independently confirmed.

The naval battle occurred as the military pressed on with an offensive to eliminate the rebel threat south of the strategic Trincomalee harbor. The military says 14 soldiers have died since the assault began Sunday.

In other developments, a roadside bomb explosion killed a soldier in Jaffna peninsula Friday.

And more than half of the international ceasefire monitors in Sri Lanka who belong to European Union member countries have left to meet a rebel deadline. The rebels demanded that they leave after the E.U. listed the Tamil Tiger rebels as terrorists.

The Tamil rebels are fighting for a separate homeland in northern Sri Lanka.

Diplomats say a 2002 ceasefire agreement between the government and the rebels appears to be near total collapse as violence continues to increase.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.