Sri Lanka government, rebels claim battle success
Mon November 24, 2008 10:46 EST .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan soldiers continued their push toward the Tamil Tiger rebels' de facto capital in the north, but faced stiff rebel resistance that left dozens dead on both sides, the military said Monday.
Government troops destroyed rebel defenses and breached huge earth barriers Sunday as they moved toward the rebel headquarters in Kilinochchi, the military said in a statement.
Tamil rebels counterattacked at several points, sparking fierce battles that killed 120 guerrillas and 27 soldiers, it said.
A pro-rebel report, meanwhile, said the guerrillas killed 43 soldiers in a separate battle Sunday and halted the government's march toward a strategic crossroads northwest of Kilinochchi.
TamilNet quoted unidentified rebel officials as saying the clash occurred in Nalloor village. The rebels took away the bodies of eight soldiers, it said.
Rebel officials could not be contacted for comment on the government report because communication lines to the north have been severed.
The head of the government's security information center, Lakshman Hulugalle, declined to comment on the report by the pro-rebel Web site, saying the government would not respond to accounts by rebel supporters.
Both sides routinely inflate the number of casualties they inflict on their opponents, and it is not possible to verify battlefield reports because most journalists are barred from the war zone.
The government has vowed to crush the rebels and end their decades-old separatist campaign. Government soldiers in recent months have captured a number of key rebel bases and large swaths of land previously controlled by the guerrillas, seizing the country's entire west and forcing the insurgents into a shrinking territory in the northeast.
However, the rebels have offered stiff resistance as the soldiers approach Kilinochchi.
The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils who have suffered marginalization by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese.
More than 700,000 people have been killed in the violence.Discuss this story
Published: Mon Nov 24 12:11:04 EST 2008