Monday, January 28, 2008

Sri Lanka military says 43 Tiger rebels killed in fresh fighting

COLOMBO (AFP) — Heavy fighting in northern Sri Lanka left 43 Tamil Tiger rebels and a government soldier dead, the defence ministry said Sunday.

The soldier was killed in clashes on Saturday between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) outside their de facto mini state, the ministry said.

It said two civilians were also killed by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels.

Security forces recovered a large haul of explosives and weapons following the fighting, the ministry said in its statement.

There was no immediate comment from the Tigers.

Since the start of the month, the ministry has claimed government forces have killed 709 rebels against just 28 soldiers.

Both sides give wildly varying casualty figures which cannot be independently verified as the government bars journalists from visiting frontline areas and rebel-held territory.

The government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the rebels this month, underscoring its recent statements that it has the upper hand in the drawn-out conflict.

Tens of thousands of people have died since the rebels launched a separatist campaign to carve out an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the majority Sinhalese nation in 1972.