Sri Lankan troops press into rebel strongholds
Fighting between government troops and Tamil separatist rebels intensified in northern Sri Lanka as troops pressed into rebel strongholds, military officials said Wednesday.
More than a dozen rebels were killed Tuesday night in Ampakamam, Mullaitivu, 380 kilometres north-east of Colombo, the military said.
Government troops were consolidating positions after heavy fighting left at least 120 rebels and 25 soldiers dead and 10 soldiers missing Tuesday in clashes outside Kilinochchi, 370 kilometers north of the capital, reported dpa.
The Defence Ministry said more than 250 rebels and 160 soldiers were injured in clashes on Tuesday, but the pro-rebel Tamilnet website said 130 soldiers had been killed and 24 bodies had been recovered.
Tamil rebels have been using Kilinochchi town as their political headquarters.
Most civilians have left Kilinochchi town, but the main hospital is accommodating a limited number of patients, said Dr T Sathiyamoorthy, deputy director of health services in Kilinochchi.
Roughly 300,000 civilians have been displaced because of the fighting, and most have moved into the coastal district of Mullaitivu, one of the last two strongholds of the rebels, who are fighting for an autonomous homeland for the Tamil ethnic minority in majority-Sinhalese Sri Lanka.
Government troops have captured parts of the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts during the past three months, but recent rains and rebel resistance has slowed down the army offensive.
The operations to recapture rebel-held areas in the Northern and Eastern provinces were launched in August 2006. The entire Eastern Province and parts of the Northern Province have since been retaken, the government said.
According to military estimates, more than 12,000 rebels and 2,500 soldiers have been killed in combat since August 2006, but there is no independent confirmation of those figures.