Sri Lanka says weekend war death toll tops 40

Sri Lankan troops killed 41 Tamil Tiger fighters in a series of weekend clashes in the island’s civil war-ravaged north, while three soldiers were also killed, the military said on Monday.

Eleven rebels were killed in fighting in the northern districts of Vavuniya and Jaffna on Sunday, while another eight were killed in the north-western district of Mannar.

Those clashes came, in turn, after soldiers killed 22 rebels, destroyed several bunkers and captured an insurgent base in a series of exchanges on Saturday and Sunday.

”Another 19 terrorists were killed on Sunday, taking the weekend toll to 41,” military spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are seeking to carve out an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka, were not immediately available for comment.

There was no independent account of what had happened or how many people were killed. Analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own.

Pro-rebel website www.tamilnet.com cited the Tigers as saying 17 soldiers were killed and 54 were wounded in a clash in Mannar on Saturday, when the military says troops captured an insurgent check point along the forward defence line that separates government from rebel-held land.

Well over 5 000 people have been killed since early last year amid near daily land and sea battles, bombings and air raids.

The government has vowed to wipe out the Tigers militarily and to clear the rebels from territory they control in the island’s north, after driving them from eastern strongholds earlier this year.

Military analysts say there is no clear winner on the horizon, and fear a war in which around 70 000 people have been killed since 1983 could rumble on for years. – Reuters

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