68 combatants killed in Sri Lanka’s weekend clashes

August 18th, 2008 - 2:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Aug 18 (IANS) At least 51 Tamil Tigers and 17 soldiers were killed and over 120 wounded in weekend clashes in Sri Lanka’s northeast, military authorities said Monday. According to the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS), 28 guerrillas of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and nine soldiers were killed Saturday and 23 rebels and eight soldiers Sunday in fierce clashes in Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, Weli-Oya and Mullaitivu areas.

Almost 90 LTTE cadres and 34 soldiers were wounded in these clashes.

The advancing troops Saturday evening claimed to have captured a key LTTE training base, “Jeevan base”, along with a massive underground training facility at Andankulam in the north-eastern Weli-Oya region.

The MCNS said the rebel base consisted of an underground bunker complex, buildings, cells for prisoners, a cemetery and several such facilities indicating that the rebels had used it for a long time.

Claiming that the MI-24 gunship helicopters provided air cover to the troops by attacking identified LTTE positions, the MCNS said that of the 17 soldiers killed in the weekend, four died when “a bolt of lightning struck a tractor carrying soldiers” Sunday evening at Andankulam area.

There was no immediate reaction from the LTTE regarding the fresh fighting in the north.

But the pro-LTTE puthinam.com website claimed that 11 soldiers were killed and 19 wounded when the rebels mounted a fierce counter attack against the advancing government troops at Palamoddai in Vavuniya Saturday.

It did not give details of damage caused to the rebels.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said last week that tens of thousands had fled areas affected by fighting in Mannar and Kilinochchi following the escalation of hostilities in Sri Lanka’s north.

According to the ICRC, although health facilities in the area “are struggling to cope with the increased demand, they have so far been able to meet the population’s basic needs”.

Over 5,000 people have been killed due to escalating violence since December 2005.

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