Sri Lanka says 47 rebels killed since weekend

Sri Lankan government planes bombed three Tamil Tiger boats off the northern coast on Monday, the military said, after fighting since the weekend left 47 rebels dead.

The fighting and the air raids were the latest in near daily land, sea and air battles that have left thousands dead in recent months.

”We saw two boats coming and we engaged them on the beach, destroying them. One more we pursued in the sea and it exploded when we hit it,” said air force spokesperson Andrew Wijesuriya about the latest raid off the Mullaithivu coast.

Wijesuriya said helicopter gunships were deployed to support ground troops in the north-west Mannar area where troops killed seven rebels in clashes on Monday.

Fighting also erupted along the frontlines in the northern districts of Jaffna, Vavuniya and Polonnaruwa in which 40 rebels were killed since the weekend, the government said.

The military lost five soldiers, it said.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had no comment to offer on the battlefield casualties, and independent verification is not possible because access is denied.

Both sides are known to inflate enemy losses while playing down their own.

But the rebels in a statement said that Saturday’s air raid by the Sri Lankan air force in the Mullaithivu area had wounded two civilians and destroyed newly built homes for survivors of the 2004 tsunami.

The rebels also blamed the military for the killing of a Catholic priest in a roadside bomb attack on Sunday.

The air force denied the allegation.

An estimated 70 000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 1983. — Reuters

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