Sri Lanka air force bombs rebel positions, 17 killed in other clashes
Sun June 15, 2008 04:45 EDT .
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lanka's air force destroyed a Tamil Tiger rebel base in the north Sunday, a day after 15 insurgents and two soldiers were killed in ground fighting, the military said.
Pilots said ``the entire terrorist complex was on fire after the airstrike'' in Puthukudiyiruppu village in the rebel-held Mullaitivu district, according to a military statement.
Rebels had been armor-plating and mounting guns onto vehicles at the complex, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
Separately, several ground battles broke out in the northern Mannar and Welioya fronts on Saturday, killing 15 insurgents and two soldiers, the statement said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said the airstrikes hit a civilian area, killing two people, and denied that any rebel had died in the fighting Saturday.
It was not possible to verify the conflicting claims because reporters are not allowed into the northern war zone. Both sides routinely release contradictory reports on the war, exaggerating the damage on the opposing side while playing down their own losses.
The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's ethnic minority Tamils who have faced decades of marginalization by governments controlled by majority ethnic Sinhalese.
Soldiers have been trying for the past few months to push into the rebels' de facto state from four fronts. The government had promised to capture the rebel territory by the end of this year.
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Published: Sun Jun 15 11:30:07 EDT 2008