Sri Lanka steps up air raids after fierce weekend clashes

December 22nd, 2008 - 4:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Dec 22 (IANS) Sri Lanka Monday stepped up air raids targeting suspected Tamil Tiger positions following fierce weekend clashes that left scores of combatants killed on both sides in the embattled north. The defence ministry said the air force carried out “successive sorties” since 6.30 a.m. on targets in Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu districts, the last of territory held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“Two air raids were made at identified LTTE resistance positions, north and east of the Iaranamadu battlefront. The sorties were made in support of the advancing 57 Division,” the ministry said.

It said an LTTE craft beached north of the Mullaitivu lagoon was confirmed to have been destroyed in a separate air attack Monday morning.

The military said Sunday that its latest offensive element, the Task Force-4, registered success by capturing Nedunkerni, a strategic town west of Mullaitivu the rebels had held for years.

The military said Sunday that at least 12 soldiers were killed and 16 went missing when the troops manning a former rebel-held village of Iranaimadu thwarted dawn-to-dusk attacks Saturday by the rebels to retake some of the strategic areas they lost to advancing troops barely a week ago.

It said that the intercepted terrorist radio transmission revealed heavy damage to the LTTE in these clashes.

But the pro-rebel TamilNet website quoting LTTE sources said that the LTTE carried out a pre-emptive strike on Sri Lankan troops at the Murikandi-Iranaimadu area Saturday, killing at least 60 soldiers.

Although it claimed the troops were pushed back two kilometres and that the rebels had found 12 dead bodies of soldiers, it remained tight-lipped on the losses caused to the rebels.

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