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Sri Lanka military says 58 die in week's fighting PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 12 April 2008

REUTERS, COLOMBO - Fighting in the far north of Sri Lanka in the past week killed 58 people, mostly Tamil Tiger rebels, the military said on Friday.

The fighting in the northern districts of Jaffna, Vavuniya, Polonnaruwa and Mannar came after a suspected rebel suicide bomber killed the country's highways minister and 13 others attending a marathon race near the capital on Sunday.

The air force also raided northern strongholds of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the week, targeting a black Tiger, or suicide-cadre training base, on Monday and a Sea Tiger base on Thursday.

Air strikes were also carried out on a rebel bunker line in the northern Jaffna peninsula, the air force said. "The troops killed 56 LTTE terrorists and injured 118 from the fighting during the week," said a spokesman at the Media Centre for National Security, asking not to be named in line with policy.

The military also said two soldiers were killed and 34 injured in the fighting. The rebels have in the past hit back with bombings in Colombo and in the relatively peaceful south of the island when they have come under military pressure in the north and east.

The Tigers, fighting for an independent state in the north and east of the island in a 25-year civil war that has killed an estimated 70,000 people, were not available for comment on the latest fighting and air raids. The government and rebels make death toll claims rarely possible to verify independently.

Nordic truce monitors, who blamed troops and rebels for repeated abuses, were banished by the government after President Mahinda Rajapaksa formally scrapped a 6-year truce in January, accusing the rebels of using it to regroup and re-arm, and vowed to fight them militarily.

Analysts say the military has the upper hand in the latest phase of the long-running war, given superior air power, strength of numbers and swathes of terrain captured in the island's east. But they see no clear winner on the horizon and rebels still retain the striking capability despite high security and military gains.

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