17 killed in latest Sri Lanka fighting

Sun Jul 20, 1:57 AM ET

Fighting between government troops and separatist Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka’s embattled northern region has killed 16 rebels and a soldier, the military said Sunday.

The latest infantry clashes erupted Saturday along the front lines in the Vavuniya, Mannar and Welioya regions bordering the rebels’ de facto northern state, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.

Fighting in Vavuniya killed 11 rebels and wounded two soldiers, while five rebels were killed and four soldiers were wounded in nearby Mannar district, he said.

Separately, a soldier was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Mannar, he said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment.

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.

Violence on this Indian Ocean island has escalated in recent months, with the military stepping up ground assaults and air strikes on rebels as the government pledged to capture rebel-held territory and crush the insurgents.

The rebels have fought 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.




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