About 16 rebels killed in fresh fighting in Sri Lanka


New fighting between Tamil separatists and government forces across Sri Lanka’s northern region killed 16 rebels and one soldier, while air force jets bombed a rebel supply base, the military said Thursday.

Air force pilots confirmed they hit the Tamil Tiger logistics base Thursday, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said. He did not have details of casualties or damage at the jungle base in the rebel-held Mullaitivu district.

In infantry clashes Wednesday, soldiers killed six rebels and wounded nine others in the northern Vavuniya district, just south of the rebels’ de facto state, Nanayakkara said. One government soldier died and eight others were wounded in the fighting, he said.

Separate clashes in the northeastern Welioya region killed five rebels and wounded nine soldiers and 47 rebels, Nanayakkara said.

Other fighting elsewhere in the region killed five rebels and wounded four soldiers, he said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment.

Both sides commonly exaggerate their enemy’s casualties while underplaying their own. It was not possible to independently verify the military’s claims because the fighting took place deep in the northern jungles where access is restricted.

Fighting has increased in recent months following a government pledge to capture the rebels’ de facto state and crush them by the end of the year. But diplomats and other observers say the army is facing more resistance than they had expected.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for minority ethnic Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting. (AP)