Sri Lanka Military: Helicopter gunships attack Tamil rebels as infantry clashes kill 25 rebels
Wed May 21, 2008 04:57 EDT .
- - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's air force launched a strike on Tamil Tiger rebels near the front lines in the war-ravaged northern region while infantry clashes killed 25 rebels, the military said Wednesday.
Air force helicopter gunships attacked a rebel mortar launching point near the front lines in northern Jaffna peninsula early Wednesday, said air force spokesman Wing Cmdr. Andy Wijesuriya.
He said the air attack was carried out in support of army troops fighting the rebels. He did not have details of damage or casualties.
Meanwhile, ground battles throughout Tuesday in the Welioya, Vavuniya and Mannar areas bordering the rebels' de facto state in the north killed 25 rebels, according to the military.
In the worst fighting, soldiers killed 19 rebels in three separate battles in Vavuniya, said the statement, adding that nine soldiers were also wounded in the same clashes.
Scattered battles in Welioya and Mannar killed six rebels and wounded eight soldiers, the statement said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not immediately available for comment.
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.
Fighting has escalated along the northern front lines since the government withdrew from a long-ignored cease-fire in January.
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.
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: Wed May 21 06:06:37 EDT 2008