Sri Lanka govt says it destroyed 30 rebel bunkers

Sri Lankan troops backed by tanks and artillery destroyed 30 Tamil Tiger bunkers in the island’s far north on Wednesday killing 12 rebels, while air force jets bombed a gathering of rebel leaders, the military said.

The predawn ground fighting along a ”border” that separates government from rebel territory in the far northern Jaffna peninsula comes amid an ever-deepening new chapter of a 25-year civil war analysts say neither side is winning.

It also came as families prepared to bury victims of a series of bombings in the government-controlled south.

”Troops attacked 30 LTTE bunkers in Jaffna and killed 12 LTTE terrorists,” a military spokesperson said, referring to the government-held northern Jaffna peninsula, and asking not to be named in line with policy.

”Five soldiers were also wounded from the fighting.”

The air raid targeted a gathering of senior Tigers near their de facto capital of Kilinochchi, the military added.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, fighting for a separate state in the Indian Ocean island’s north and east, were not immediately available for comment and there was no independent confirmation of what had happened.

The military has captured large swathes of territory from the Tigers in the east of the country, vastly outnumbers the rebels, and is now seeking to overrun their northern stronghold.

But observers see no clear winner on the horizon, and the violence has seen some businesses put investment plans on hold and help push the stock market down around 7% in 2007 and another 4% so far this year.

Fighting between the military and the rebels has intensified since the government scrapped a six-year ceasefire pact last month it said the rebels were using to re-arm.

Bus bombings and suicide attacks blamed on the Tigers are increasingly focused on civilians, as in earlier stages of the war, a trend experts put down to the fact civilians are less well protected and therefore easier prey.

Thousands of people have been reported killed in recent months, though analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses. The conflict that has killed an estimated 70 000 people since 1983.

The bulk of fighting has been in the far north in recent months, well off the beaten tourist track. But attacks are increasingly scattered, prompting some foreign governments to issue travel advisories.

Officials say tourist arrivals, which fell 11,7% in 2007 from a year earlier with revenues down even more, could suffer further if attacks continue to spread. – Reuters

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