Military says fighting in northern Sri Lanka kills 26 Tamil rebels
Thu July 3, 2008 02:19 EDT .
- - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A series of battles between government forces and Tamil Tiger fighters along the front lines of their civil war killed 26 rebels, the military said Thursday.
The fighting took place throughout the day Wednesday, killing two rebels in the Vavuniya area, 12 in Mannar and 12 in Welioya, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan disputed those figures, saying three of his fighters and 11 soldiers were killed in the fighting.
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 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.
Violence has escalated in recent months, with the military initially pledging to capture rebel-held territory and crush the insurgents by the end of the year, but recently saying it will take longer than planned.
Published: Thu Jul 3 08:03:22 EDT 2008