Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Attacks kill 38 in Sri Lankan mine, wildlife sanctuary

AFP , COLOMBO

At least 38 Tamil Tiger rebel fighters and government soldiers have been killed in fresh fighting in Sri Lanka, the defense ministry said yesterday.

The guerrillas killed seven soldiers in an attack inside Yala National Park, Sri Lanka's main wildlife sanctuary in the southeast, a military official said.

Six of the soldiers died in an overnight attack on an army outpost, and the seventh trooper was killed and three more wounded in a mine attack as additional troops poured into the area, officials said.

"A pocket of isolated terrorists had attempted to overrun the army outpost," the defense ministry said in a statement. "Troops supported by reinforcements successfully managed to chase the terrorists away."

EXCHANGE OF FIRE

In separate fighting, at least 30 rebels were killed and many more wounded in several exchanges of fire on Monday in the island's north, where a frontline divides government territory and a Tamil Tiger mini-state, the defense ministry said.

"Sri Lanka army soldiers launched several pre-emptive strikes immediately ahead of their forward defenses in Wanni and in Jaffna killing over 30 terrorists," the ministry said in a statement.

In the northern skirmishes, one government soldier was also killed and seven were wounded, the ministry said.

No independent confirmation of the claim was immediately available, and there was no comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

SANCTUARY

The attack inside the Yala sanctuary came a day before authorities were due to open it to visitors following the park's annual six-week shutdown.

The guerrillas have carried out several attacks against security forces and wildlife employees, and three of the five zones within the 1,000km2 park reserve have remained closed for several years following Tiger attacks.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1972 for autonomy in the island's north and east in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands.

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