Sri Lanka fighting kills 24 rebels, 4 soldiers
Fri August 22, 2008 05:52 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Soldiers captured a strategic town held by Tamil rebels in northern Sri Lanka - on Friday, while renewed infantry clashes elsewhere in the region killed 24 rebels and four soldiers, the military said.
Separately, war planes pounded a Tamil Tiger supply facility in the north.
Fighting has escalated in recent weeks in the Indian Ocean island, with the military capturing a series of rebel bases and large chunks of territory and government officials reiterating their pledge to crush the rebel group by the end of the year.
Army troops captured rebel-held Tunukkai town in the Mullaitivu district Friday, after nearly one month of fighting, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara. He said the town is strategically important because it lies on a key supply route in the war-torn region.
Also Friday, soldiers took control of Uyilankulam a rebel-held village, about five miles (eight kilometers) north of Tunukkai, he said.
Nanayakkara said details of casualties were not available immediately.
Separately Friday, air force fighter jets bombed a Tamil Tiger supply facility deep in the jungle in Mullaitivu, said air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara.
He said details of the bombing raid's casualties and damage were not immediately available but that the pilots had confirmed they ``hit the target accurately.''
Hours later, in nearby Kilinochchi district, helicopter gunships attacked a rebel bunker line in support of troops fighting on the ground, Nanayakkara said.
On Thursday, a series of ground battles took place in Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Welioya, Jaffna and Vavuniya regions, said Nanayakkara, the military spokesman.
Army troops killed six guerrillas in separate clashes in Kilinochchi and lost two soldiers, he said.
Seven insurgents and a soldier died in several confrontations in Mullaitivu, he said.
Scattered battles in other parts killed 11 rebels and a soldier, the military spokesman said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment on the military's claims.
Both sides routinely exaggerate enemy casualties and underreport their own. Independent verification of the fighting is not possible because most journalists are barred from the war zone.
International aid groups say the new fighting has forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes. The groups say the government has cut off most phone service to rebel areas in recent weeks, a charge the military denies.
The rebels have been fighting for an independent state in the north and east since 1983, following decades of marginalization of ethnic Tamils by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Published: Fri Aug 22 07:15:13 EDT 2008