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Maldives says sinks suspected Tamil Tiger vessel

COLOMBO (Reuters) - The Maldives coast guard opened fire on and sank a vessel carrying suspected Tamil Tiger rebels on Thursday after a 12-hour standoff at sea in the island nation's southern territorial waters, the government said.
However, one man who threw himself overboard before the clash and surrendered spoke the south Indian language Malayalam and not Tamil, and officials were treating the alleged rebel link with caution.
"We have sunk the vessel. We have captured the five people aboard," Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed told Reuters by telephone from the Maldivian capital of Male.
According to a government spokesman, one of the captured men said four people he believed to be Tamil Tigers had boarded his 80-ft (25 metres) fishing trawler at sea and loaded it with guns and mortar bombs.
He said confusion arose over an initial coast guard report saying the man had identified himself as a Tamil Tiger.
"We are now treating this with caution, because the man was speaking Malayalam and not Tamil," said chief government spokesman Mohamed Shareef.
The Tigers denied any involvement.
"We are not operating in that area," Tiger military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan said from the rebels' de facto state in Sri Lanka's far north. "These guys are not our people."

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