Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Sri Lankan military says 52 rebels killed in fighting

DEATH TOLL Since the government withdrew from a 2002 ceasefire last month, violence has escalated and nearly 1,500 people have fallen victim to the conflict

AP , COLOMBO

Government troops fighting Tamil Tiger separatists across the jungles of northern Sri Lanka killed 52 rebel fighters in recent days, the military said yesterday.

Soldiers killed eight guerrillas in fighting on Wednesday along the front lines in Vavuniya region, the military said in a statement.

In the nearby Mannar District, soldiers attacked rebel bunkers and killed seven fighters, while in the northeastern Welioya region, seven other guerrillas were killed, the military said.

The newly reported deaths brought the overall toll in Wednesday's fighting to 39, including two soldiers killed by a roadside bomb, the military said.

It also announced that it killed 13 rebels in an artillery attack on Tuesday.

There was no immediate comment from the rebels. Both sides in the conflict exaggerate enemy casualties while underreporting their own. It was not possible to independently verify the reports because the fighting took place deep in the northern jungles, where access is restricted.

Violence has escalated on the Indian Ocean island since the government withdrew last month from a 2002 ceasefire with the Tamil rebels.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by Sinhalese-dominated governments.

The fighting has killed more than 70,000 people.

The 2002 truce fostered hopes for a lasting peace, but broke down as fighting over the past two years killed 5,000 people.

Nearly 1,500 people have been killed since the government announced its withdrawal from the ceasefire, according to the military.

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