Sri Lankan official: Soldiers capture strategic territory after clash that killed 14
Fri February 8, 2008 08:38 EST .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan troops closed in on a key rebel-held town Friday after capturing a strategic stretch of land in a clash that killed 12 separatist insurgents and two soldiers, the military said.
Soldiers took control of a 1-kilometer-wide (0.6-mile-wide) strip of land after a fierce clash and were now just a short distance from the town of Adampan currently held by the Tamil Tiger rebels said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.
Capturing Adampan would be a crucial step in the military's campaign to dismantle the rebels' de facto administration in the country's north.
Nanayakkara said 12 guerrillas and two soldiers were killed in the battle. Tamil Tiger spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be contacted for comment.
On Thursday, government troops attacked rebel bunkers along the northern front lines, triggering gunbattles that killed 34 rebels and one soldier, the military said.
The soldiers destroyed three of the rebel bunkers and killed 20 guerrillas in the attack in the Vavuniya region, just south of the rebels' de facto state, a Defense Ministry official said.
The fighting left six soldiers wounded, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.
Also Thursday, soldiers fired artillery rounds that destroyed a Tamil Tiger boat and killed four rebels at sea off the northern Jaffna peninsula, the official said. Separate clashes in the area left two other rebels dead.
On the same day, soldiers fought separate gunbattles with rebels in the northeast, leaving four insurgents and one soldier dead, the official said. Other fighting nearby killed four more rebels, he said.
It was not possible to independently verify the reports because of limited access to the northern jungles where the fighting took place. Both sides often inflate their opponents' casualty figures and lower their own.
Violence has spiked in this Indian Ocean island in the past two years as a 2002 cease-fire broke down. Government troops last year drove the guerrillas from their eastern strongholds and in recent months fighting has raged around the rebels' de facto state in the north.
More than 800 people have been killed since the government announced last month that it was quitting the cease-fire, according to the military.
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent state in the north and east for the country's ethnic Tamil minority after decades of being marginalized by Sinhalese-dominated governments. The fighting has killed more than 70,000 people.Discuss this story
Published: Fri Feb 8 11:19:14 EST 2008