Sri Lanka says air force bombs rebel position; new northern battles kill 20
Sun July 6, 2008 09:00 EDT .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan fighter jets bombed a Tamil Tiger rebel position in their northern stronghold Sunday, a day after 19 rebels and a soldier were killed in a new round of ground fighting, the military said.
A defense ministry statement said the target was a rebel gathering point in northern Kilinochchi district. It did not give details of casualties or damage caused by the raid.
Battles broke out Saturday on the northern front lines in the Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar and Welioya regions as soldiers tried to push into the rebel stronghold, a military official said. The operation was part of the government's intensified campaign to recapture territory long held by the rebels.
The worst clashes were reported in several villages in Vavuniya district where 12 rebels were killed, the official said on condition of anonymity, in line with government rules.
Three rebels were killed in Mannar and four rebels and a soldier were killed in Welioya, the official said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment and it was not possible to verify the military's claims because reporters are barred from the war zone.
Each side is known to exaggerate casualties inflicted on the other, while underreporting their own losses.
The government earlier promised that its soldiers would capture rebel territory and dismantle their de facto state in the north by the end of 2008. However, the country's army commander told reporters last week it could take another year to defeat the guerrillas.
Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the country's ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict.Discuss this story
Published: Sun Jul 6 11:51:02 EDT 2008