Sri Lanka says 60 killed in weekend battles

At least 56 Tamil Tiger rebels and four government troops have been killed in heavy fighting across Sri Lanka’s embattled north over the weekend, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

Helicopter gunships were deployed against suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) strongholds in the coastal district of Mannar on Saturday, the ministry said.

It said a total of 56 rebels were killed in clashes on Friday and Saturday when the military made a new push into rebel-held territory in the north-western coastal area.

So far this year, the Defence Ministry has reported that security forces have killed at least 1 957 rebels for the loss of 117 government soldiers.

The government numbers and those given by the Tigers cannot be independently confirmed as Colombo bars journalists and rights groups from frontline areas.

Three Sri Lankan MPs have also been killed this year, including a lawmaker who died in a blast on Thursday.

The LTTE said its elusive supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran, on Saturday paid his respects to the MP, Kiddinan Sivanesan (51), killed in a roadside bomb attack allegedly carried out by government commandos.

The government pulled out of a Norwegian-arranged truce with the Tigers in January and since then fighting has escalated across the embattled regions.

More than 60 000 people have been killed in the drawn-out separatist conflict. — AFP



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