Sri Lanka : military says it captures small northern town as clashes kill 31 Tamil rebels
Fri May 9, 2008 07:39 EDT .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan soldiers captured a small town in the north Friday and fought another fierce battle nearby, killing 31 Tamil rebels and losing three soldiers, the military said.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said the soldiers took control of Adampan town in northern Mannar district after clashes that killed 15 rebels and two soldiers.
In a separate fighting Friday, soldiers captured another one-square-mile (about 2.6 square kilometer) patch of rebel-held territory southeast of Adampan, Nanayakkara said. Sixteen rebels and one soldier were killed in the battle, and five soldiers are missing, he said.
Nanayakkara said the seizure of Adampan could restrict guerrilla movement and transportation of arms and was an important step in dismantling guerrilla strongholds in the area.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached immediately for comment.
Meanwhile, the pro-rebel TamilNet Web site reported that 30 soldiers were killed in heavy fighting in Mannar on Friday morning. The site said the Tigers resisted the army advance and forced the army to retreat after three hours of fighting.
It however did not comment on the military's claims of capturing territory.
Separately, helicopter gunships attacked rebel strongholds near the front lines in Mannar in support of army troops while air force fighter jets bombed a rebel operation center, Nanayakkara said.
He did not give details of casualties or damage.
It was not possible to obtain independent confirmation of the military's claims because reporters are not allowed in the war zone. Both sides are known to exaggerate death tolls and damage inflicted upon each other while underreporting their own losses.
Troops have battled for months over territory around the rebels' northern strongholds, promising they would crush the insurgents by the end of the year.
The rebels have strongly resisted and halted some military advances.
Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for minority Tamils who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by majority Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed.
Published: Fri May 9 08:57:30 EDT 2008