Fighting kills 44 in Sri Lanka as soldiers close in on key rebel town, says military
Sat February 9, 2008 01:03 EST .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Fighting raged across Sri Lanka - 's embattled north killing 44 combatants as government troops closed in on a strategic rebel-held town, the military said Saturday.
The latest gunbattles that erupted along the front lines in the northern districts of Jaffna, Mannar and Vavuniya killed 41 Tamil Tiger rebels and three soldiers on Friday, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
Soldiers took control of a 1-kilometer-wide (0.6-mile-wide) strip of land after a fierce clash and were just a short distance from the rebel-held town of Adampan, said 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. Separate fighting across the north killed 29 guerrillas and one soldier Friday, he said.
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.
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 since 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: Sat Feb 9 08:47:46 EST 2008