Sri Lankan military says new fighting kills 20 Tamil rebels, 2 soldiers in volatile north
Mon July 7, 2008 02:47 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A series of battles between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels across Sri Lanka - 's embattled northern region killed 20 rebels and two soldiers, the military said Monday.
Fighting has escalated on the Indian Ocean island in recent months, with the military stepping up ground assaults and airstrikes on rebel-held territory in the north.
The latest battles erupted Sunday in the Vavuniya, Mannar, Welioya and Jaffna areas bordering the rebels' de facto state in the north, said Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, the military spokesman.
In the worst fighting, army troops killed seven rebels along the front lines in Vavuniya, he said.
In the nearby Mannar district, separate clashes killed four rebels and one soldier, while fighting in Jaffna killed five rebels and one soldier, he said.
Battles in Welioya killed four rebels and wounded two soldiers, Nanayakkara said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment.
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 been fighting 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.
The government earlier promised that its soldiers would dismantle the rebels' de facto state by the end of 2008. However, the country's army commander told reporters last week it could take another year to defeat the guerrillas.Discuss this story
Published: Mon Jul 7 06:43:05 EDT 2008