COLOMBO -- Seven Sri Lankan sailors and their speedboat were missing Tuesday following a sea battle with Tamil Tiger rebels near the maritime border with India, diplomats and officials said.
The clashes erupted on Monday when two navy speedboats moved to push back a fleet of what they believed to be poaching fishermen from India, a military official said.
"We suspect Tigers had taken the cover of Indian fishermen to attack the naval craft," the official said, adding that Sri Lankan authorities had lodged a complaint with India about hundreds of fishing trawlers in its waters.
Diplomatic sources said Indian authorities had been alerted to the case of the missing sailors, who were operating near Sri Lanka's northern Talaimannar naval facility, and the fact that rebels may have been disguised as fishermen.
The clash came as Sri Lanka marked its 60th anniversary of independence from Britain amid tight security, but celebrations were overshadowed by a string of bomb attacks that killed 14 people and wounded 20.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan air force bombed a suspected Tamil Tiger base in the north of the island Tuesday, the defense ministry said. There were no details of casualties or damage.
President Mahinda Rajapakse on Monday said in an address to the nation that the war against the Tamil Tigers was being won.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels, who have been fighting for independence since 1972 in a conflict that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.