Bomb blast kills 3 police in east Sri Lanka ; northern fighting kills 39, military says
Mon June 23, 2008 12:57 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels detonated a bomb Monday in government-controlled east Sri Lanka - killing three policemen, a day after clashes in the north killed 33 rebels and six soldiers, the military said.
The latest bombing, in Ayithiamalai village in eastern Batticaloa district, targeted a group of policemen going for a river bath. It was the second such attack in the region in two days after a roadside bomb killed two police on Sunday.
Ayithiamalai was for years part of vast rebel territory in the east which the government captured nearly a year ago. But Tamil Tiger rebels still operate in scattered cells and occasionally ambush the army and police.
After the government's success in the east, fighting has escalated in areas separating government-controlled territory and the rebels' de facto state in the north.
The military has in recent months stepped up land and air attacks following the government's recent pledge to snatch rebel-held territory and crush the separatists by the end of the year. Diplomats and other observers say the army has faced more resistance than expected.
The latest battles broke out Sunday in the northern areas of Vavuniya, Mannar, Welioya and Jaffna, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.
Army troops captured six rebel bunkers near the front lines in Vavuniya after a battle that killed 10 rebels and five soldiers, Nanayakkara said.
The same fighting wounded 30 rebels and seven soldiers, and one soldier was missing, the spokesman said.
In nearby Mannar, soldiers clashed with guerrillas in fighting that killed 10 rebels and a soldier, he said.
Other battles in Welioya, Vavuniya and Jaffna killed 13 rebels while wounding 30 rebels and 15 soldiers, he said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not immediately available 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 and plays down its own.
The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for minority ethnic Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.Discuss this story
Published: Mon Jun 23 21:47:05 EDT 2008