Military: New fighting in Sri Lanka kills 22 despite rebels' cease-fire offer
Mon July 28, 2008 03:21 EDT .
RAVI NESSMAN - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan troops launched a wave of attacks on Tamil Tiger bunkers that killed 18 guerrillas and four soldiers, despite a rebel decision to implement a temporary, unilateral cease-fire, the military said Monday.
The rebels said last week they would halt attacks for 10 days starting last Saturday as a goodwill gesture in honor of a summit of South Asian leaders to be held in Colombo.
However, the group said it would retain the right to defend itself if the government pressed ahead with its offensive against their de facto state in the north.
Sri Lankan officials gave conflicting responses to the cease-fire declaration, with some military officials saying halting the offensive now, after several important victories in recent days, would give the rebels time to regroup.
On Saturday, as the cease-fire was to start, government forces killed 12 rebels across the battlefront, the military said.
Fighting continued Sunday, with at least 16 different battles breaking out in the Welioya and Vavuniya regions, some of them sparked by government attacks on the rebels' bunker lines, the military said Monday. The rebels also carried out at least five roadside bombings against troops, the military said.
The violence killed 18 rebels and four soldiers, the military said.
``There's no response to the cease-fire. Our offensives are going on,'' military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not immediately available for comment. It was not clear if the rebels would abandon the truce in the face of the ongoing attacks.
Both sides routinely give conflicting versions of battles and independent verification of the fighting is not possible because journalists are barred from the war zone.
The violence came at the start of preliminary meetings of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation, known as SAARC.
The heads of state of the eight-member grouping including India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are to hold their two-day meeting starting next Saturday.
Government officials would be deeply embarrassed by a rebel bus bombing or other attack during the gathering. To prevent such a scenario they sent nearly 20,000 police and soldiers into the streets of Colombo and it's suburbs and shut down several major roads in the city for the duration of the summit.
The Tamil rebels have been fighting for an independent state in the nation's north and east since 1983, following decades of marginalization by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Fighting escalated in recent months after the government vowed to crush the rebels and seize their de facto state by the end of the year.Discuss this story
Published: Mon Jul 28 04:21:29 EDT 2008