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Government troops attacked separatist Tamil Tiger bunkers along the front lines in Sri Lanka’s embattled north, triggering gunbattles that killed 34 rebels and one soldier, the military said Friday.
The soldiers destroyed three rebel bunkers in Thursday’s push in the Vavuniya region, just south of the rebels’ de facto state in the north, killing 20 guerrillas, a Defense Ministry official said.
The fighting left six soldiers wounded, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.
Also Thursday, soldiers fired artillery rounds to destroy a rebel boat in the sea off the northern Jaffna peninsula, killing four rebels, he said. Separate clashes in the area left two other rebels dead.
In the northeastern Welioya region, soldiers fought separate gun battles with rebels, leaving four insurgents and one soldier dead, the official said. In nearby Mannar district, four rebels were killed.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer a telephone call seeking comment.
It was not possible to independently verify the reports because access is limited to the northern jungles where the fighting took place. Both sides often inflate casualty figures for their opponents while lowering their own.
Violence has spiked in this Indian Ocean Island in the past two years as a 2002 cease-fire broke down. Government troops last year drove the guerrillas from their eastern strongholds and in recent months, fighting has raged around the rebels’ de facto state in the north.
More than 800 people have been killed since the government announced last month that it was quitting the cease-fire, according to the military.
The Tamil 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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