Sri Lanka says 52 killed in weekend clashes

At least 52 combatants were killed and 25 wounded in fresh fighting between security forces and Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka’s embattled north during the weekend, the Defence Ministry said Sunday.

With the upsurge in clashes along the de facto frontlines separating the mini-state held by the guerrillas, the military stepped up the already tight security in the capital, police said.

Heavily-armed troops and police searched almost all vehicles entering the capital of 650 000 people, causing long traffic delays.

Minority Tamil politicians said hundreds of ethnic Tamils had been detained by the security forces in several police stations throughout the capital since Saturday as part of the cordon-and-search operations against the rebels.

Police said they detained those who failed to establish their identities in the capital, but declined to say how many had been held for questioning.

Ground troops clashed with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northern districts of Vavuniya and Mannar, leaving 43 rebels killed and 25 wounded since Saturday, the ministry said.

It said five soldiers were killed while another 20 were wounded in those battles. Another four rebels were killed further north in the Jaffna peninsula on Saturday, the ministry said.

No independent confirmation of the claim was available and journalists are rarely allowed to travel into rebel-held areas in the north.

There was no immediate comment from the LTTE, which has been fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the island’s north and east since 1972.

Meanwhile, the government has imposed travel restrictions on civilians moving between rebel-held territory in the north and government-controlled areas, military spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. — AFP



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