Sri Lanka military says 13 rebels, 1 soldier killed in northern fighting
Wed April 2, 2008 05:05 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan soldiers launched a pre-dawn attack Wednesday on Tamil separatists in the embattled north, triggering a battle that killed 13 rebels and one soldier, while fighter planes bombed a separate guerrilla base, the military said.
Troops pushed into Tamil Tiger rebel-held territory and seized took control of Kalaiadachchan village in Mannar district, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said. Twelve other soldiers were wounded in the fighting, he said.
Separately, air force jets pounded a Tamil rebel base in the northern rebel stronghold of Mullaitivu, Nanayakkara said. He gave no details of casualties or damage, but said pilots confirmed the assault was successful.
The battles and air attacks were part of a heavy escalation in fighting in the country's civil war in recent months. The government has vowed to crush the rebels by the end of the year, but diplomats and other observers say the army is facing more resistance than it expected.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls seeking comment.
Scattered fighting across the north on Tuesday killed 51 rebels and two soldiers, the military said.
It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because journalists are banned from the war zone. Both the government and rebels often exaggerate the other side's casualties and underreport their own.
The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by successive governments run by majority ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.
On Tuesday, a human rights group blamed Sri Lankan security forces for the massacre of 17 aid workers 20 months ago, saying police and paramilitary forces shot the victims as they knelt on the ground and begged for their lives.
The killing of the Sri Lankan workers for the French aid agency Action Against Hunger horrified many here. No one has been charged in their deaths, and holding someone accountable is seen as a crucial test of the government's commitment to human rights.
European monitors earlier blamed security forces for the killings. The government denied the allegation and blamed the rebels.
University Teachers for Human Rights, a respected local group, issued a 29-page report Tuesday that claimed to describe the killings of the 17 in the eastern town of Muttur in August 2006, after a fierce battle between troops and Tamil rebels.
The slain workers all but one of whom were members of the ethnic minority Tamil ethnic group were working on tsunami relief projects at the time.
The report said two police officers and a paramilitary home guard accompanied by a team of commandos entered the offices where the aid workers had holed up, accused them of helping the rebels, forced them to kneel down and summarily executed them as they screamed for mercy.
The security forces then covered up their role in the killings, the report said.
A government commission set up 18 months ago has not yet resolved the case, and an international panel of experts appointed to advise the commission has resigned, saying the probe did not meet international standards.Discuss this story
Published: Wed Apr 2 07:44:09 EDT 2008