Report: 60 Sri Lankan soldiers killed in fighting
Sun December 21, 2008 01:49 EST .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Tamil Tiger rebels killed 60 Sri Lankan troops advancing toward their de facto capital, a pro-rebel report said, but the government denied Sunday that many soldiers had died.
The insurgents struck as the soldiers were preparing an assault in Iranamadu village, just south of the guerrilla headquarters of Kilinochchi, and forced the troops to retreat from recently seized territory, the rebel-affiliated TamilNet Web site reported late Saturday.
The guerrillas recovered 12 bodies of Sri Lankan soldiers, and 150 other troops were wounded, the report said. It did not provide the number of rebel losses.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said there were a ``few'' deaths and some soldiers were reported missing. But he dismissed the casualty figures reported by TamilNet and said soldiers were not in retreat.
``We have not pulled back, we are in the same locations,'' Nanayakkara said.
It was not possible to verify the rebel report because journalists are not allowed in the war zone. Both sides are known to exaggerate enemy casualties and underreport their own losses.
Government forces have seized a large area of rebel-held territory in recent months and forced the Tigers into territory in the northeast.
However, troops have been locked in heavy battles at the edge of Kilinochchi for nearly two months amid heavy monsoon rains and stiff resistance by the rebels.
The guerrillas have claimed at least three major battle successes in recent weeks, the last being the reported killing of 170 soldiers near Kilinochchi on Tuesday.
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils who suffered decades of marginalization by successive governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. The conflict has killed more than 70,000 people.Discuss this story
Published: Sun Dec 21 02:30:16 EST 2008