Tamil rebels say military bomb kills 16 in northern Sri Lanka
Fri May 23, 2008 10:41 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Tamil Tiger rebels said Friday that 16 civilians were killed in a roadside bomb attack carried out by Sri Lankan government forces in the country's war-torn north.
The attack took place in the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi and the victims included children, the rebels said in an e-mailed statement. They accused elite government special forces of planting the bomb.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara denied any involvement in the attack, saying, ``We don't operate in that area.''
The rebels said the bomb hit a van carrying 19 members of an extended family, killing 16. The other three passengers were injured and admitted to the Kilinochchi hospital, the statement said.
The rebels said an infant and teenage girl were killed in a government airstrike elsewhere in Kilinochchi on Friday.
Air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara denied bombing civilian areas. However, he said fighter jets had bombed a rebel gathering area and a beach where the rebels had concealed their boats.
Friday's violence took place as the guerrillas mourned the death of a senior rebel leader who died of a heart attack Tuesday. Balasegaram Kandiah known by his nom de guerre, Brig. Balraj reportedly led a number of battles against government forces.
Meanwhile, the military said gunbattles across the island's restive north on Thursday killed 22 rebels and two soldiers.
The battles erupted in the Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar and Welioya areas bordering rebel-held territory, military spokesman Nanayakkara said.
In the worst of the fighting, soldiers killed 11 insurgents in three separate clashes in Vavuniya, Nanayakkara said, adding that 10 soldiers were wounded there.
Other battles in the three areas killed 11 rebels and two soldiers, he said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment on those battles.
It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because media are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Each side commonly exaggerates the other's casualties while playing down its own.
Fighting has escalated in recent months along the front lines separating government-controlled territory and the Tamil Tiger rebels' de facto state in the north.
The government has pledged to capture the rebel-held territory and crush the insurgents by the end of the year. Diplomats and other observers say, however, that the army has faced 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: Fri May 23 13:04:44 EDT 2008