Sri Lanka Fighting Kills 34

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: July 4, 2008

Filed at 11:23 a.m. ET

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan troops captured a key Tamil Tiger rebel base in the island’s north Friday, a day after a wave of battles in the same region killed 32 rebels and two soldiers, the military said.

Soldiers took control of Michael Base in the rebel stronghold of Mullaitivu district after three days of fighting, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.

He said casualty details were not immediately available.

Fighting has escalated in this Indian Ocean island in recent months, with the military stepping up ground assaults and air strikes on rebels in line with a government pledge to capture rebel-held territory and crush the insurgents by the end of the year.

Also other clashes took place in the Vavuniya, Mannar and Welioya regions bordering the rebels’ de facto northern state on Thursday, said a defense ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to government policy.

Several battles in Mannar left 24 guerrillas and two soldiers dead, he said. Twenty-five rebels and 10 soldiers were wounded.

Other battles in Vavuniya and Welioya killed eight rebels, and wounded 12 Tamil Tiger fighters and four soldiers, the official said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment on any of the reported fighting.

It was not possible to independently verify the military reports because journalists are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Each side commonly exaggerates its enemy’s casualties and downplays its own.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

The government has vowed to end the insurgency by the end of this year but the island’s army chief, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, told reporters Monday that it may take another year to defeat the rebels.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Sri-Lanka-Civil-War.html?ref=world

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