Sri Lanka military: death toll in weekend fighting rises to 55

 

Fighting raged between soldiers and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka’s embattled north, leaving 13 insurgents and two soldiers dead, raising the death toll in weekend fighting to 55, the military said on Monday.

 

In the latest fighting, army troops clashed with guerrillas in three villages near the front lines in northern Vavuniya district, killing 13 rebels on Sunday, said a defense ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

 

In the same area, two soldiers died after getting caught in booby traps, the official said.

 

Earlier, the military said battles across the north killed 39 rebels and one soldier on Saturday.

 

Rebel officials could not be contacted for comment.

 

It was not possible to independently verify the reports because the fighting took place deep in the northern jungles, where access is restricted. Both sides often release inflated casualty figures for their opponents while lowering their own.

 

Government troops have opened up four fronts around the rebels’ de facto state in northern Sri Lanka, surrounding the territory, while the air force has launched a mission to kill the group’s top brass and crush the rebels’ decades-old separatist war.

 

Fighting has raged around the rebels’ de facto state since the government announced earlier this month that it was pulling out of a Norwegian-brokered cease-fire, which had long been ignored by both sides.

 

More than 600 people have been killed since the cease-fire officially ended, according to the military. The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent state in the north and east for the country’s ethnic Tamil minority after decades of being marginalized by Sinhalese-dominated governments. The fighting has killed more than 70,000 people. (AP)

 
 
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