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Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2006, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
S Lankan navy 'sinks rebel boats'
Tamil Tiger boats. File photo
The clash was the latest in a series of deadly sea battles
Sri Lanka's navy says it has destroyed two Tamil Tiger rebel boats in a sea battle off the north coast.

It said at least 20 rebels were killed in the battle, although this has not been confirmed by the Tamil Tigers.

The latest clash comes ahead of peace talks between the government and the rebels planned for the end of October.

On Wednesday, Tamil Tiger rebels carried out a daring raid on a navy base in the tourist city of Galle. At least two people died in the attack.

'Boats damaged'

The Sri Lankan military said the navy had intercepted about 15 rebel boats off the town of Nagarakovil on the Jaffna peninsula on Friday. It said two rebel boats were destroyed and several others damaged during a prolonged gun battle.

It said at least 20 rebels were killed and two Sri Lankan sailors were injured.

So far there have been no comments from the Tamil Tigers about the latest clash.

A US envoy, meanwhile, urged both sides "to cease hostilities and exercise maximum restraint".

"In the end, the fighting is not getting anybody anywhere," US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said at the end of his two-day visit to Sri Lanka.

More than 60,000 people have been killed in Sri Lanka since the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launched its campaign for a separate state in the north and east of the country in 1983.

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