31 die in Sri Lankan Army-LTTE clashes on SAARC summit eve

August 2nd, 2008 - 12:12 pm ICT by IANS  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, Aug 2 (IANS) At least 13 Sri Lankan soldiers and 18 Tamil Tiger rebels were killed and over 50 wounded in clashes in the northern Wanni region as South Asian leaders arrived here for the 15th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, an official said Saturday. Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrillas and army soldiers clashed at Mallavi in Mullaitivu district Friday.

“Eleven soldiers and nine LTTE cadres were killed during the fighting that lasted throughout Friday. The LTTE offered heavy resistance as the troops are inching forward into the rebel stronghold,” Nanayakkara told IANS.

Twenty soldiers and 27 LTTE cadres were also wounded during this clash at Mallavi.

In separate clashes at Vellankulam in the north-western Mannar district, two government soldiers and nine rebels were killed Friday. The troops recovered the dead body of a rebel along with a few firearms, Nanayakkara said.

Meanwhile, the pro-LTTE puthinam.com website claimed that 30 government soldiers were killed and 60 more wounded in the clashes in Mallavi. It also claimed that the rebels had captured an army vehicle along with some military hardware.

However, Nanayakkara dismissed the report, saying they were “not true”.

Fresh violence erupted as leaders of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan arrived in Colombo for the SAARC summit amid tight security.

The leaders will meet Aug 2-3 to thrash out agreements on various regional issues, mainly in the spheres of trade, education, culture and tourism.

The European Union (EU), Japan, China, South Korea, Iran, Mauritius, Australia, Myanmar and the US will participate as observer states.

The LTTE had announced a 10-day unilateral truce between July 26 and Aug 4 as “a goodwill gesture” for the SAARC summit, but the ruling coalition led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa rejected the offer as “a trap”.

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