Military says 78 killed in Sri Lanka clashes
Mon May 19, 2008 05:03 EDT .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A day of fierce clashes in Sri Lanka - 's embattled north has left 61 Tamil Tiger rebels and 17 soldiers dead, the military said Monday.
Government soldiers and the rebels fought several battles in northern Mannar district Sunday, killing 40 rebels and 10 soldiers while three other soldiers are reported missing, the military said in a statement.
Twenty-one other rebels and seven soldiers were also killed Sunday in scattered fighting, mortar fire and mine blasts across Jaffna, Vavuniya and Welioya regions, the statement said.
Rebels spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not immediately available for comment.
However, a pro-rebel Web site reported that the rebels have stalled a military advance in Mannar, killing 26 soldiers and wounding more than 50. Three insurgents were also killed in the battle the Web site reported, quoting an unnamed rebel official.
It was not possible to obtain independent accounts of the fighting because reporters are not allowed in the war zone. The two sides often release conflicting reports of casualties exaggerating damages caused to the enemy and lowering their own losses.
Government forces have for the past several months tried to break into the rebels' well-guarded northern strongholds from four main fronts, promising to crush the insurgents and dismantle their de facto administration by the end of the year.
But military analysts have pointed out that the military's progress has been slower than expected and that the rebels retain much of their capacity to resist.
Tamil Tiger rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by majority ethnic Sinhalese.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.
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Published: Mon May 19 07:53:45 EDT 2008