Sri Lankan military says 22 killed in fighting
Tue October 14, 2008 04:07 EDT .
- - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Scattered fighting in northern Sri Lanka - killed 20 rebels and two soldiers as the government pressed ahead with its offensive against the Tamil Tigers, the military said Tuesday.
The fiercest of Monday's battles took place in the Kilinochchi region, where 11 rebel fighters and two soldiers were killed in a wave of confrontations, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said. Fighting in Jaffna, Vavuniya and Mullaittivu killed nine other rebels, he said.
With nearly all communications to the north severed, rebel spokesmen 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.
Fighting has escalated in recent months in the 25-year-old civil war, 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.
The United Nations and aid groups said Monday that more than 220,000 people had been displaced by the fighting and expressed concern for civilians stuck without shelter as seasonal monsoons begin hitting the area.
Many of the displaced are selling their valuables, jewelry and cattle to make ends meet and to pay for transportation to keep running away from the fluid front lines, the groups said in a statement.
The government expelled humanitarian groups from rebel territory last month, but has allowed the U.N. to send in a convoy of food aid.
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.
Published: Tue Oct 14 07:43:28 EDT 2008