Sri Lanka says 24 rebels killed in new fighting
Sat September 6, 2008 05:09 EDT .
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lankan soldiers captured three Tamil Tiger rebel bunkers and killed 24 guerrillas in fighting across the island's restive north, the military said Saturday.
Troops captured the three bunkers and killed eight rebels in fighting Friday along the northeastern front of Welioya district, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
Other fighting broke out Friday in Vavuniya district, where 14 rebels were killed, and in Kilinochchi district, where two guerrillas were killed, Nanayakkara said.
On Saturday, air force helicopters bombed rebel bunkers in the rebel-held Mullaittivu district to support advancing ground troops, the military said in a statement.
It did not give details of damage or casualties suffered by rebels in the raid.
With communication all but cut with the northern areas, rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment.
Independent verification of the fighting and casualties was not possible because most journalists are banned from the war zone. Both sides have been accused of exaggerating enemy casualties and underreporting their own.
Fighting has escalated in recent weeks because of a government offensive deep into the jungles of the north, where the rebels control a de facto state. The government has pledged to crush the rebel group by the end of the year.
The rebels have admitted losing territory in recent battles but claim government soldiers are overextended and are walking into a trap.
Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's ethnic minority Tamils, who have faced discrimination at the hands of successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.
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Published: Sat Sep 6 05:18:27 EDT 2008