Sri Lankan battles kill 51 combatants
Fri June 27, 2008 05:56 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A series of battles between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels killed 49 insurgents and two soldiers in northern Sri Lanka - , the military said Friday.
Separately, the air force bombed a rebel training base deep in the rebels' northern territory, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.
The island nation's civil war has escalated in recent months with near-daily airstrikes, sea and ground battles and frequent bombings. The United Nations estimates that 200 civilians have been killed in targeted bomb attacks so far this year.
The latest infantry clashes broke out Thursday along the front lines in the Vavuniya, Mannar and Welioya regions bordering the rebels' de facto state in the north, Nanayakkara said.
In the worst fighting, army troops killed 30 guerillas in three separate battles in Vavuniya. Separate clashes in nearby Mannar killed 18 rebels, while two soldiers and one rebel were killed in Welioya, he said.
Nine rebels and nine soldiers were wounded in the battles, Nanayakkara said.
Meanwhile, air force fighter jets pounded a rebel specialized training base in the guerrilla-held Mullaitivu district early Friday. Nanayakkara did not provide details of damage or casualties but said the pilots confirmed that the target was hit.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment on the military claims.
It was not possible to independently verify the military reports because journalists are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Each side commonly exaggerates its enemy's casualties and downplays its own.
The government has pledged to capture rebel-held territory and crush the insurgents by the end of the year.
The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.Discuss this story
Published: Fri Jun 27 07:07:58 EDT 2008