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VOL. 8, NO. 322


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Military says 20 rebels, 1 soldier killed in fighting in northern Sri Lanka
Associated Press, Fri February 22, 2008 11:13 EST . RAVI NESSMAN - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Scattered battles in the war-torn jungles of northern Sri Lanka - killed 20 separatist guerrillas and a soldier, the military said Friday, while the rebels accused the government of killing eight civilians in an airstrike.

The violence came as fighting between the two sides has sharply increased in recent weeks, with the government vowing to retake rebel-controlled territory and crush the Tamil Tigers after more than two decades of warfare.

On Friday, soldiers fired at a group of rebels who tried to infiltrate the government-held Welioya region, killing six guerrillas, the military said in a statement.

In fighting Thursday in the Mannar area along the Indian Ocean nation's west coast, troops killed three rebels who were trying to cross the front lines and two others in a separate confrontation, the military statement said. In nearby Vavuniya, troops killed nine fighters in two clashes, the military said.

A soldier was also killed in fighting Thursday on a third front in the Welioya area, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls seeking comment. Both sides commonly exaggerate their enemies' casualties while underplaying their own. Independent confirmation is unavailable because journalists are barred from the conflict zone.

Early Friday, air force jets hit an inland base used by the Sea Tigers, the rebels' naval arm, where some craft were hidden, Nanayakkara said without giving details of damage or casualties.

The rebels said the air raid hit a coastal village and killed eight civilians, including three children, and wounded 10 others.

``Five of the dead died instantly following the bombing and three more of the critically injured died later,'' stated an e-mail sent to reporters from the rebels' political wing.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who were marginalized for decades by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.Discuss this story
Published: Fri Feb 22 13:05:39 EST 2008

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