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Sri Lanka says dozens killed as war death toll climbs

Two policemen were killed by a suspected Tamil Tiger roadside bomb in northern Sri Lanka on Monday, while the death toll from weekend fighting rose to 75 rebels and seven soldiers, the military said.

Fighting between the military and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north and north-west has intensified since the government scrapped a six-year ceasefire pact last month. It said the rebels were using the truce to re-arm.

”In Vavuniya the LTTE exploded a Claymore mine targeting a police motor-cycle. One sub-inspector and a police constable died,” said military spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.

A second roadside bomb in the north-western district of Mannar injured another police officer, he added.

Nanayakarra said 35 Tamil Tiger rebels and one soldier were killed in a series of clashes on Sunday, on top of 40 rebels and six soldiers the military said were slain on Saturday.

The rebels, who are fighting for a separate state in the Indian Ocean island’s north and east, were not immediately available for comment on the latest fighting.

There were no independent accounts of what happened or how many people were killed and analysts say the foes tend to inflate enemy death toll figures.

Buoyed by battlefield victories in the east, where it has captured swathes of rebel-held terrain, the government is now seeking to overrun the separatist Tigers’ northern stronghold and has vowed to defeat them militarily.

But the Tigers continue to mount deadly suicide attacks and roadside bombings, which are increasingly scattered across the island, with some in the capital Colombo.

Tourist arrivals are down and so is the stock market, which has fallen around 3% so far this year after sliding nearly 7% in 2007, with some businesses shelving investment plans.

The military says it has killed more than 1 100 rebels since January and that 83 service personnel and 89 civilians have been killed during the same period.

Thousands of people have been reported killed since 2006 as the truce crumbled and analysts expect the conflict to drag on for years. An estimated 70 000 people have died since the conflict began in 1983. – Reuters

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