Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels mounted counter-attacks against government troops and killed at least 60 soldiers besieging their political headquarters, the guerrillas said yesterday.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they had re-taken positions from government forces who have been closing in on the northern town of Kilinochchi, the Tiger’s political capital.
The pro-rebel Tamilnet Web site quoted Tiger officials saying that they had killed 60 soldiers and wounded another 150 in Saturday’s fighting. The rebels also claimed they had the bodies of 12 soldiers.
The Tigers did not give details of their own casualties, but the defense ministry said the guerrillas suffered “heavy damages” when troops hit back.
The defense ministry rejected rebel claims of high military losses and placed security force casualties at 13 soldiers killed and 40 wounded.
Both sides are known to make exaggerated claims about the casualties they have inflicted on each other, and independent verification is virtually impossible with journalists and aid workers barred from the conflict area.
The latest Tiger claims of heavy counter-attacks came as the military said the air force had carried out strikes against Tiger positions and government troops had made a fresh bid to penetrate defenses around Kilinochchi.
Planes carried out seven bombing sorties on Saturday in support of soldiers trying to capture the town, the defense ministry said.
“Air force fighter jets made seven successive air strikes targeting LTTE defenses and strategic locations in Wanni [where Kilinochchi is the capital],” the ministry said.
The navy on Saturday destroyed a Tamil Tiger vessel carrying arms and other supplies off the island’s northeastern coast, the ministry said.
There was no immediate comment from the Tigers about the reported sea battle.