Colombo: Sri Lankan air force jets bombed rebel Tamil Tiger ground positions on Saturday after a navy patrol boat was sunk by a suspected rebel mine off the northeast coast, with 10 of the 16 crew missing and feared dead.

Pro-Tamil sources said the Dvora fast attack boat was destroyed by a suicide squad of so-called black Tiger fighters, with three rebels killed in the sea clash.

But the military said the boat struck a mine during an early morning patrol by two navy craft in darkness near Nayaru area, north of the capital Colombo.

Navy spokesman, Commander D.K.P Dassanayake, said, "We suspect it was an LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) sea mine," adding the explosion happened around 2am.

"The commander of the boat said it was raining and he heard an explosion, so we suspect it's a sea mine explosion as there were no LTTE boats around that time and there wasn't any confrontation," Dassanayake said.