Sri Lanka military says northern fighting kills 25
Thu September 25, 2008 03:54 EDT .
- - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) A wave of heavy fighting along the northern front lines of Sri Lanka - 's civil war killed 24 rebels and one government soldier, the military said Thursday.
As the battles raged Wednesday, air force helicopters attacked a rebel radar position near the turbulent Jaffna peninsula, the military said in a statement.
The new fighting was part of a resurgent government offensive that has captured large swaths of territory from the rebels in recent weeks amid a government pledge to crush the Tamil Tigers and end the 25-year-old civil war this year.
Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa ruled out talks with the Tamil Tigers unless the rebel group commits to disarm, a demand the group has repeatedly rejected.
He also accused the rebels of holding the Tamil community in the north hostage and promised a major development push in the impoverished area after the fighting ends.
``The government's objective is to enable the people to enjoy the benefits of the democratic processes and to speed the development activities in those areas where there is a heavy presence of terrorists,'' he said.
The Tamil Tigers 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. The conflict has killed more than 70,000 people.
The fighting continued Wednesday with battles in the Vavuniya region killing seven rebels, the military said in a statement. Fighting in the Kilinochchi and Welioya regions killed another nine rebels, while a soldier died in a bomb blast in the Jaffna peninsula. Other violence in Jaffna killed eight rebels, the military said.
With most communication with the northern areas cut, rebel military 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.Discuss this story
Published: Thu Sep 25 06:43:04 EDT 2008