Fighting erupts between troops, rebels along front lines and coast in northern Sri Lanka
Mon May 5, 2008 09:50 EDT .
RAVI NESSMAN - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Tamil rebels and government troops battled Monday along the front lines of the civil war in northern Sri Lanka, sparking more bloodshed in an area where scores of fighters were killed less than two weeks ago.
The rebels said they killed eight soldiers in Muhamalai in the Jaffna peninsula. The government said its forces killed 10 rebels, while two soldiers were killed.
In a separate battle off the country's western coast, the rebels said their fighters killed three troops. The government said one soldier was injured and another was missing after that attack.
The differing versions of the battles and the starkly different death tolls given highlight the difficulty in obtaining accurate information from the war zone, which is off limits to journalists and most other independent observers.
The warring parties routinely exaggerate enemy casualties while underreporting their own.
The rebels accused government forces of attacking their front line positions Monday morning in Muhamalai, north of the rebel's de facto state.
``The offenders were promptly beaten back,'' rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said, adding that they killed eight soldiers and wounded 20 others.
Rebel fighters suffered no casualties, Ilanthirayan said in the e-mailed statement.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara accused the rebels of attacking the troops' bunkers and said government forces repelled the attack, killing 10 rebels. Two soldiers were killed and one was missing, he said.
A fierce battle April 23 along the same front line positions in which rebels apparently lured troops into an ambush killed scores of fighters and was widely considered a humiliation for the government.
In other fighting Monday, Ilanthirayan said the rebels launched an early morning attack along the coast in the western town of Mannar, killing three naval troops. The rebels did not suffer causalities in the attack, he said in the statement.
The government said the rebels had attacked a marshaling point where fishermen gathered to register with naval and army forces before heading out to sea.
``Under the disguise of civilians, they have come from the land and engaged the point where troops successfully repulsed them,'' Nanayakkara said, adding that one soldier was injured and another was missing.
Also Monday, helicopter gunships attacked a rebel gathering point near the front lines in Mannar, in support of army troops fighting the rebels, Nanayakkara said.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels on the air attack.
The government also announced that fighting Sunday had killed six rebels and two soldiers.
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.
Discuss this story
Published: Mon May 5 11:42:25 EDT 2008