Officials in Sri Lanka say suspected Tamil Tiger rebels have attacked a naval gunboat off the country's east coast.

In Colombo, authorities say the patrol craft was blown up early Saturday near Trincomalee harbor. The fate of the sailors aboard is unknown, but the Associated Press is reporting at least 15 sailors died in the attack.

The attack comes one day after Sri Lanka's new foreign minister, Mangala Samaraweera, said his country urgently needs international assistance to spur the Tigers back to peace negotiations.

In an interview with the Associated Press Friday, he said democracy in Sri Lanka is under siege due to the extreme position of the Tigers, known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He said, however, newly elected President Mahinda Rajapakse is still committed to the peace process.

In Washington, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns will travel to Sri Lanka to encourage renewed negotiations between the government and the rebels.

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