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Page last updated at 12:31 GMT, Saturday, 4 April 2009 13:31 UK

'Tigers killed in naval battle'

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At least 11 Tamil Tiger rebels have been killed and four of their boats destroyed in a sea battle off north-eastern Sri Lanka, the military says.

The navy said it intercepted 10 rebel craft and that ground forces dealt with those that attempted to beach.

The government says more than 100 rebels have been killed in major land and sea battles in recent days.

Clashes have intensified in what security forces say is a final push against the Tigers.

It has not been possible to confirm the government's account independently.

In the sea battle early on Saturday, the navy says four Tamil Tiger boats were destroyed, killing at least 11 rebels.

"Two boats were destroyed at sea while ground troops destroyed two other boats which landed in Mullaitivu area," Sri Lankan naval spokesman Commander Mahesh Karunarathne told the BBC.

Elsewhere on the battlefront, military officials say they are now trying to completely defeat a group of rebels encircled in a small patch of land in the Puthukudiyiruppu region.

Military officials say they have recovered the bodies of more than 100 Tamil guerrillas killed in the fighting over the past few days in the area.

According to the defence ministry, a rebel long-range artillery gun (130mm) has also been captured by the army in the Anandapuram area.

"This is set to be the first occasion where troops have seized a LTTE artillery gun in direct combat," the ministry website said.

There has been no reaction from the rebels to the military's version of events.

'Violation'

Meanwhile, in New York UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern over reports that tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the conflict zone are at extreme risk.

A statement by his office said Mr Ban "deplores the forced recruitment of civilians, particularly children", and urged the Tamil Tigers to let them leave the area. It said the "severe restrictions on their freedom of movement violate international law".

Mr Ban also reminded the government "of its responsibility to protect civilians, and to avoid the use of heavy weapons in areas where there are civilians, as promised".

Both warring sides deny the accusations.



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