Tamil separatist rebels have offered to release 23 security forces personnel in their custody in exchange for a top guerilla leader and two female Sea Tigers held by the army, defence officials said yesterday. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are demanding the release of Kennedy, a guerilla warfare expert, and two women cadres, Mala and Uma, key figures in the rebels' naval unit. Many government security forces personnel incarcerated by the Tigers have been in rebel prison camps for more than three years. They include regular army and navy personnel and civilians employed by the military. The highest ranking among them is Captain A. K. Boyagoda, who was captured by the rebels after the navy craft he commanded was in a suicide attack in 1994, on the eve of abortive peace talks with the Government. Kennedy was captured by security forces following a rebel offensive on the northern Jaffna military air base in Palaly, also in 1994. Defence officials said the Tigers had shifted their prison camps to the Mannar district following a series of recent government military operations in the north and north-central districts. Meanwhile, eight crew members of the passenger vessel Iris Moana, which was hijacked by the Tigers in August last year, have been moved to a prison camp in Mannar from the northern Kilinochchi district bordering the Jaffna peninsula. Military intelligence reports claim the Tigers tortured and killed 19 civilians in Kilinochchi before fleeing to Mannar. The victims were suspected of being army informants and had been abducted by the Tigers, security sources said. Defence officials said the 19 battered bodies had been transported and dumped at locations away from suspected Tiger torture chambers in the northern war zone.