/ 20 June 2007

Sri Lanka claims to have killed 70 rebels in a day

Sri Lankan troops killed about 30 Tamil Tigers in a clash overnight in jungle in the island’s restive east, the military said on Wednesday, hours after the navy said it had killed about 40 insurgents in a sea battle.

The military said soldiers had captured a rebel bunker line during the fight in a swathe of landlocked eastern jungle called Thoppigala, where Tiger fighters are still entrenched after the fall of their eastern stronghold earlier this year.

It was the latest in a series of land and sea battles since the long-running civil war flared again in recent months. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, seeking independence for the north and east, are widely listed as a banned terrorist group.

”We have destroyed three satellite camps and are clearing the area. There are a lot of minefields,” said army spokesperson Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe of the fighting in Thoppigala.

”One Tamil civilian in the area said there are 73 prisoners being held by the Tigers there, including one army corporal,” he added. ”They cannot hold on to that area now because they don’t have any food.”

The navy said late on Tuesday it had destroyed five Tiger vessels after coming under attack off Sri Lanka’s northern tip, but the Tigers accused the navy of starting the sea battle. They said just two of their fighters were killed.

”According to our people, they managed to damage one of the Sri Lankan Navy Dvora [attack boats],” a Tiger source said.

”The Sea Tigers lost two of their men and there is no damage to any of their boats reported. There is no information from the east yet.”

There was no independent confirmation of what happened or of casualty tolls. Analysts say both sides tend to talk up enemy losses and play down their own. — Reuters