The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Friday, 28 March 2008

26 killed in Sri Lanka battles: military

Twenty-six people, including two civilians have been killed in new fighting in civil war-wracked Sri Lanka, the military said.

A series of tit-for-tat clashes between security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) across the island's north yesterday left at least 18 rebels and four soldiers dead, according to a military statement.

Also two civilian workers who were collecting sand from a river bed to make cement were killed when they came under rebel fire in Amapara in the island's east yesterday, the military said.

"Terrorist gunfire killed two of them (the civilians) but the third one survived with injuries," a military statement said. The ministry refers to the LTTE as terrorists.

There was no immediate comment from the LTTE and casualty claims by either side cannot be independently verified as journalists and rights workers are barred from the embattled areas.

Since the start of this year, at least 2,401 rebels and 147 soldiers have been killed in fighting, according to defence ministry figures.

Northern Sri Lanka has been the scene of heavy fighting between troops and Tamil rebels since the Government ejected the LTTE from its eastern stronghold last year.

Security forces have been trying to dismantle the Tigers' de facto state in the north, but the guerrillas have been putting up stiff resistance.

Tens of thousands of people have died since the LTTE launched their armed struggle in 1972 to carve out a separate homeland for minority Tamils in the the majority Sinhalese country.

Source: ABC