Sri Lankan military: Gunbattles kill 17 Tamil rebels in north of country
Sun June 8, 2008 08:47 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Government forces and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels fought a series of gunbattles that killed 17 rebels in Sri Lanka - 's volatile north, the military said Sunday.
In the latest fighting, army troops launched an attack on insurgents along the front lines in the northern area of Welioya on Sunday morning and killed three guerillas, a defense ministry official said. There were no casualties among the government soldiers, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to government regulations.
Separate clashes Saturday in Vavuniya district killed eight rebels and wounded five soldiers, the defense ministry said in a statement.
Other battles Saturday in Jaffna and Welioya killed six rebels and wounded 10 soldiers, the statement said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment.
It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because journalists are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Each side commonly exaggerates its enemy's casualties while playing down its own.
Fighting has escalated in recent months along the war's front lines, with the government pledging to capture rebel-held territory and to crush the insurgents by the end of the year. Diplomats and other observers say the army has faced more resistance than expected.
The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for the island's minority ethnic Tamils, who have suffered marginalization by successive governments controlled by majority ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Published: Sun Jun 8 10:26:18 EDT 2008