Sri Lanka: Rebel death toll passes 5 000 this year

Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry said on Sunday it has killed dozens more Tamil Tigers in the latest ground and sea clashes, bringing a tally of reported rebel deaths so far this year to more than 5 000.

Sri Lankan Navy spokesperson DKP Dassanayake said eight rebel boats, carrying at least 16 guerrillas, were either destroyed or damaged on Sunday in an attack off the north-western coast.

Elsewhere in the north, ground troops killed 18 rebels and lost one soldier during fighting on Saturday, the ministry said.

The deaths bring to 5 060 the number of rebels the ministry claims has been killed since the start of the year, when the government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire.

The ministry has reported the loss of 447 of its own soldiers in the same period.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are fighting for a separate homeland, do not release casualty figures and seldom respond to government claims.

The government figures cannot be independently verified as journalists are barred from reporting from frontline areas.

Sri Lankan troops are escalating their effort to dismantle the de-facto separate state the rebels maintain in the north of the country.

Army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka on Saturday said forces had wiped out two-thirds of the LTTE’s military capability and put its current strength at 5 000, with about 200 000 civilians forced to provide logistic support.—AFP

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