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Tamils destroy Sri Lankan warship

THE Sri Lankan navy's biggest warship was blown up on Monday in a night sea raid by Tamil rebels, scuppering proposed peace talks to end the 13-year civil war with the Tamil ethnic minority, writes Tim McGirk.

A Colombo military spokesman at first said that a Tamil suicide squad riding in fishing scows packed with explosives had rammed the 120ft naval vessel, killing themselves and at least 25 sailors. But later reports revealed that the rebels had sneaked aboard the anchored vessel after midnight, captured the captain and another officer, and looted every weapon they could find except for the cannons bolted on to the deck.

Using explosives, the Tamil rebels sank the warship with all the Sri Lankan crew on board. Brigadier Gemunu Kulatunga said, 'We fear the death toll could go up to 35 to 40 people.' Five Tamils were killed in the sea attack off the island's northern tip which is under insurgent control.

The loss of the largest vessel in Sri Lanka's tiny navy sinks the chances of a settlement in a revolt that has claimed some 30,000 lives.