Military: Clashes in Sri Lanka kill 30 combatants
Mon October 13, 2008 05:09 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan soldiers attacked Tamil Tiger rebel bunkers along the northern front lines triggering gunbattles that killed 27 guerrillas and three soldiers, the military said Monday.
Fighting has escalated in recent months on the Indian Ocean island with the military capturing a series of rebel bases and large chunks of territory. Officials have pledged to crush the guerrillas by the end of the year.
In the latest fighting, soldiers destroyed three bunkers and captured four others Sunday after battles that killed 15 rebels near their administrative capital of Kilinochchi, the military said in a statement.
Separate clashes in the same area killed four rebels and one soldier, it said.
The military has said it is closing in on Kilinochchi and its forces are about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the outskirts of the town.
In the northern Jaffna peninsula, troops killed four rebels along the front lines while a rebel mortar attack killed two soldiers, the statement said.
Clashes in Mullaitivu killed four rebels and wounded one soldier, it said.
With nearly all communications to the north severed, a rebel spokesman could not be contacted for comment.
Independent verification of the military's claims is nearly impossible because most journalists are banned from the war zone. Both sides routinely exaggerate enemy losses and underreport their own.
The rebels have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the country's ethnic minority Tamils, who have faced marginalization by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, who is visiting Australia, said the global economic turmoil would not cripple the government's ability to fund the war, which he said was in the ``final stages.''
``We are quite confident our financial resources will sustain current engagement with'' the rebels, Bogollagama told reporters at a joint press conference with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith in Canberra Monday.
Last week, the government presented budget proposals for 2009 seeking a 20 percent increase in defense spending to a record 177 billion rupees ($1.6 billion).
Published: Mon Oct 13 08:06:44 EDT 2008