Mon, May 05, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Several killed in Sri Lanka clashes

AP , COLOMBO

Heavy weekend fighting between government troops and Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka’s contested north killed 35 rebels and eight soldiers, the military said yesterday.

The latest battles erupted Saturday along the front lines in the Mannar and Welioya regions, the military said.

In the worst fighting, soldiers killed 13 Tamil rebels in Welioya, said a defense ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of government regulations. Four soldiers were also killed.

Separate fighting elsewhere in Welioya killed four rebels and three soldiers, the official said.

Sporadic fighting in the northern Mannar district killed 18 rebels and one soldier, he said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not immediately available for comment yesterday.

It was not possible to independently verify the military’s claims because the media are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Both sides commonly exaggerate their enemy’s casualties while underplaying their own.

The government has pledged to capture the rebels’ de facto state in the north and crush them by the end of the year. But diplomats and other observers say the army is facing more resistance than expected.

Fighting has escalated along the northern front lines since the government withdrew from a long-ignored ceasefire in January.

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