Sri Lankan military says 39 Tamil rebels, 8 soldiers killed in heavy fighting
Sun May 4, 2008 04:57 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Heavy weekend fighting between government troops and Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka - 's contested north killed 39 rebels and eight soldiers, the military said Sunday.
The latest battles erupted Saturday along the front lines in the Welioya, Mannar and Vavuniya regions, the military said.
In the worst fighting, soldiers killed 13 Tamil Tiger rebels in Welioya, said a Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of government regulations. Four soldiers were also killed, he said.
Separate fighting elsewhere in Welioya killed four rebels and three soldiers, the official said.
Army troops seized a small section of territory in the village of Puliyankulam in the northern Vavuniya district after a battle that killed 10 guerrillas, the official said. The battle also wounded 10 rebels and two soldiers.
Another clash in Vavuniya killed two rebels and wounded two soldiers, and sporadic fighting in the northern Mannar district killed 10 rebels and one soldier, he said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not immediately available for comment Sunday.
It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because the media are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Both sides commonly exaggerate their enemy's casualties while underplaying their own.
The government has pledged to capture the rebels' de facto state in the north and crush them by the end of the year. But diplomats and other observers say the army is facing more resistance than expected.
Fighting has escalated along the northern front lines since the government withdrew from a long-ignored cease-fire in January.
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for minority ethnic Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
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Published: Sun May 4 07:30:51 EDT 2008