Sri Lanka's navy and Tamil Tiger rebels fought a fierce sea battle off the island's northern coast, the two said on Saturday.
Sri Lanka's defence ministry said its warships sank at least four rebel boats and killed at least 14 guerrillas while the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they destroyed a navy fast attack craft and a hovercraft.
"Four LTTE attack craft were destroyed, 14 terrorists killed and as many others reported injured in a fierce sea battle that erupted between naval craft and Sea Tigers," the ministry said in a statement.
It said at least five senior Tiger members were among those killed.
The Tigers, in remarks published in the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website, said 20 of their attack craft took part in the battle and that they lost seven of their suicide attackers.
The Tigers said the navy was forced to withdraw from the area after the attack.
Close in combat like this make me nervous about the Littoral Combat Ship that we plan to sail in deep water and close to shores to combat enemy forces.
We need a cheaper ship to provide numbers in the fleet. The LCS, despite cost overruns, will be cheaper than our other larger ships and still reasonably capable and flexible because of mission modules that can reorient the ship's capabilities.
But look at this ship. It is nearly 400 feet long and 3,000 tons. They are larger than our World War II destroyers. This is not a small, coastal combatant. And I have little doubt that these ships will suffer damage and loss if put into coastal waters against masses of cheap enemy ships that will include suicide boats.
If we really need to operate in the littorals, buy cheap and small ships/boats in large numbers that operate simple small guns, automatic weapons, and short-range missiles. Plus add small UAVs/USVs to extend their range and capabilities. Battles in the littorals cannot avoid losses since we sacrifice the ability to punch at long range by operating in areas that allow enemies to hide and strike quickly at short range.
Putting expensive LCS into the littorals will risk ships way too expensive to be sunk and will just provide propaganda stories for an enemy.