200 Tamil rebels die in military ambush

Columbo (Reuter) - Sri Lankan Tamil rebels suffered their worst setback in recent years yesterday when more than 200 fighters were killed during a raid on an army complex.

"We had intelligence of a likely attack so we took precautions," a senior officer at the Weli Oya base, on the north-east coast of the island, said.

The military said more than 3,000 Tamil Tigers launched simultaneous attacks on four camps at the base in the early hours. Navy patrol craft and air force fighters sank 15 "Sea Tiger" boats, including fourspeedboats captured earlier from the navy, sources said.

"The first wave of Tigers managed to land but the navy engaged the main body," thearmy officer said. "At first light the air force came in full force."

Military spokesman, Brigadier Sarath Munasinghe, said troops found 182 rebel bodies, men and women. "But enemy casualties are believed to be much higher as we have not recovered their dead from air and naval attacks."

Brigadier Munasinghe said two soldiers were killed and 18 wounded. Earlier reports said 14 soldiers died. Two women "suicide killers" carrying explosives were shot dead outside brigade headquarters in Weli Oya.