updated 9/13/2007 12:15:11 PM ET 2007-09-13T16:15:11

Sri Lanka's navy, assisted by warplanes and helicopters, launched a massive attack against a flotilla of nearly 20 boats belonging to separatist Tamil Tiger rebels off the island's northern coast Thursday, the military said.

The boats were spotted off the coast of the rebel stronghold of Mullaithivu and the navy, with air support, engaged them, an official at the Defense Ministry's information center said on condition of anonymity.

The rebel naval base from which the boats were launched was also attacked causing a fire, he said, adding that details of casualties were not available.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment.

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