Sri Lanka's military launched new attacks yesterday on Tamil Tiger rebel positions, the insurgents said, a day after fierce fighting killed up to 61 combatants, according to the two sides.
The military said it wants to fully secure a northeastern reservoir and canal that triggered the ongoing clashes, some of the worst since the two sides signed a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire in 2002.
"Our field military commanders are reporting a continued Sri Lankan offensive today," senior rebel official Seevarathnam Puleedevan said from the rebels' northern stronghold.
There was no independent confirmation of the attacks, or the scale of the offensive.
"Our operation will continue until we fully secure the whole area," military spokesman Major Upali Rajapakse told reporters earlier yesterday.
Nordic ceasefire monitors said there had been no initiative from either side to stop the violence.
"It is useless [to try to stop the fighting] if there is no initiative from the parties," said Thorfinnur Omarsson, a spokesman for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. "And both parties have shown no initiative."
Water is now flowing from the canal in Trincomalee district after a blockade by the rebels was lifted, but the government says it wants to clear the area of insurgents so the water supply for 60,000 people in government-held villages is not disrupted again.
The Tamil Tigers began fighting in 1983 for a separate homeland for the country's 3.2 million Tamils, saying the ethnic minority group can only prosper away from the domination of the 14 million Sinhalese majority. The ceasefire put a halt to the bloodshed, but the truce has nearly collapsed with almost daily violence in recent months.
Hospital sources said six government soldiers were killed and 49 wounded on Thursday, but the pro-rebel TamilNet Web site put the government death toll at 41.
A rebel spokesman said that the Tigers lost 10 soldiers and 20 others sustained injuries. But the Defense Ministry said at least 20 were killed.