Sri Lanka battles kill 30 rebels, 3 soldiers
Sun August 24, 2008 02:02 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Government troops attacked Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka - 's war-ravaged north, triggering battles that killed 30 rebels and three soldiers, the military said Sunday.
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.
The latest battles erupted Saturday along the front lines separating government-held territory and the rebels' de facto state in the north, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
In the worst fighting, army troops clashed with rebels in the Welioya area, leaving 16 rebels and one soldier dead, he said. Another eight soldiers were wounded.
Soldiers also attacked two rebel bunkers in the Vavuniya area, killing nine guerrillas, he said. Two soldiers were wounded in the assault.
Other fighting in the region killed five rebels and two soldiers, he 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 was not possible because most journalists are barred from the war zone.
International aid groups say the recent 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.Discuss this story
Published: Sun Aug 24 02:25:04 EDT 2008