Sri Lanka military says kills 34 rebels in fresh fighting
Thursday, 31 July 2008

COLOMBO, Tue Jul 29,( - Sri Lankan troops killed 34 Tamil Tiger rebels in fresh fighting in the north of the island, the military said on Tuesday, as government forces continue their push against the rebels' northern stronghold.

The fighting in several northern districts came as security was beefed up in the capital for a summit meeting for regional leaders and amid the government's dismissal of a declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by the rebels.

"Day earlier fighting had killed 34 LTTE terrorists and injured 34," said a spokesman at the Media Centre for National Security asking not to be named in line with the policy.

Sri Lanka is on high alert with some 19,000 extra police and soldiers deployed in Colombo for the South Asian Association of Regional Corporation (SAARC) summit from July 27 to Aug. 3.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had declared a 10-day unilateral truce starting from July 26 as a goodwill gesture for the summit but the announcement was dismissed by the government which said it had not received official notification from the rebels and was skeptical about the declaration.

The government is pursuing a strategy to gradually retake the Tiger's northern stronghold and win the 25-year civil war amidst an almost daily barrage of land, sea and air attacks in northern rebel-held territories.

The military earlier this month said that it had dealt a "fatal blow" to the Tamil Tigers, with the capture of the northwestern town of Vidattaltivu, the main base of the Tigers' sea wing and their logistics hub for the region.

The rebels were not immediately available for comment on the latest fighting but had said previously that they would be forced to take "defensive action" if the military continued to attack them despite their declaration of a brief truce.

"Three soldier died and 11 were injured from the fighting," the security spokesman said, referring to the fighting in the northern districts of Vavuniya, Polonnaruwa and Mannar where the fighting is now concentrated after the military drove away the Tamil Tiger rebels from east.

Sri Lanka's civil war has killed more than 70,000 people since it started. The Tigers have been fighting for an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka for minority Tamils since 1983.

The government and rebels trade death toll claims that are almost impossible to verify independently.

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