12 soldiers killed, 16 missing in Sri Lanka combat
Government troops and Tamil rebels fought pitched battles in northern Sri Lanka over the weekend that killed at least 12 soldiers and 16 others were missing, the defence ministry said Sunday, dpa reported.
The fighting came as government troops took control of another rebel-held town known as Nedunkerny and located, 280 kilometres north east of Colombo.
Rebels attacked security forces close to Iranamadu, 310 kilometres north of the capital, killing 12 soldiers as 16 others were still unaccounted for, the ministry said.
The military said its troops thwarted a rebel counteroffensive in areas recently retaken by government forces.
Government troops have vowed to recapture all rebel-held areas before the end of the year, but Tamil insurgents have increased their resistance in the northern region.
The fighting has displaced more than 300,000 civilians and the government has called civilians to leave rebel held areas and enter areas controlled by the military, but the response has been slow.
At least 36 more civilians turned up in government-controlled zones on Saturday. They said the rebels did not want them to leave their areas.
Military operations to recapture the northern and eastern parts of the country were launched in August 2006. More than 12,000 rebels and 2,500 soldiers have been killed since, according to military figures.
There is no independent confirmation of casualty figures given by the military.