Sri Lanka says 57 killed in heavy weekend battles

 

At least 53 Tamil Tiger rebels and four government troops were killed in heavy fighting across Sri Lanka's embattled north over the weekend, the defence ministry said Sunday.


Helicopter gunships were deployed to pound suspected strongholds of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the coastal district of Mannar on Saturday, the defence ministry said.

The ministry said a total of 15 rebels and two soldiers were killed in Saturday's clashes while 38 guerrillas and two more soldiers were killed on Friday in fierce clashes in the island's north.

There was no immediate word from the Tigers, but the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website reported that security forces were using multi-barrel rocket launches to attack areas inside rebel-held territory.

So far this year, the defence ministry has reported that security forces have killed at least 1,9541 rebels for the loss of 117 government soldiers.

The government numbers cannot be independently confirmed as Colombo bars journalists and rights groups from embattled areas.

Three Sri Lankan MPs have also been killed this year, including a lawmaker who died in a blast on Thursday.

The LTTE said its elusive supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran, on Saturday paid his respects to the MP, Kiddinan Sivanesan, 51, killed in a roadside bomb attack allegedly carried out by government forces.

The government pulled out of a Norwegian-arranged truce with the Tigers in January and since then fighting has escalated across the island's embattled regions. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the island's drawn out Tamil separatist conflict. (AFP)

 

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