Sri Lanka military says 5,000 rebels killed this year

Other News Materials 20 July 2008 11:32 (UTC +04:00)

More than 5,000 Tamil Tiger rebels have been killed by Sri Lanka's military since the beginning of the year, the defence ministry said on Sunday, the AP reported.

The ministry said its latest figures showed 5,036 rebels and 446 of its own soldiers had died in fighting from the period beginning January and ending Friday night.

The rebels have not released their estimate of casualties. Figures from both sides cannot be independently verified as journalists are barred from reporting from front line areas.

Sri Lankan troops have being trying since July last year to dismantle the de facto separate state the rebels maintain in the north of the country, with fighting centred around Mannar, Jaffna, Weli Oya and Vavuniya.

Army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka on Saturday said forces had wiped out two-thirds of the Tamil Tigers' military capability and estimated its current strength to be 5,000, with around 200,000 civilians forced to provide logistic support.

Despite military reports of massive rebel losses, the Tamil Tigers maintain a few fixed-wing aircraft, a formidable sea force and a band of suicide bombers known for daring attacks against security, economic and political targets.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which has waged a bloody fight since 1972 for an independent homeland for ethnic Tamils, did not comment on the claims.