77 Tamil rebels killed in clashes ahead of New Year

April 13th, 2008 - 9:06 pm ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 13 (IANS) Sri Lanka, celebrating the traditional Tamil-Sinhala New Year, claimed Sunday that at least 77 Tamil Tiger rebels and 12 army personnel were killed in clashes in the northwestern Mannar district Saturday. “Intercepted (LTTE) radio transmissions have confirmed terrorists numbering 77 were killed and at least 26 injured on the Mannar front alone (on Saturday). In addition, 12 soldiers died in the battle while 29 others suffered injuries,” Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry announced.

It also said that advancing government troops backed by artillery bombardment Saturday “gained a significant area of ground” held by the rebels in Mannar after daylong clashes.

“During these operations, eight LTTE bunkers located at various positions on the battlefront came under the army. During the search operations conducted so far one body of slain LTTE cadres has been found,” the Defence Ministry claimed.

LTTE’s military spokesperson Rasaiyah Illanthirayan, in a statement Saturday night, however, claimed that 30 Sri Lankan Army personnel were killed and 75 injured in the clashes. He conceded only three LTTE deaths in the fighting.

Illanthirayan claimed that the clashes erupted when the government troops, backed by air and artillery bombardment, “attempted to move towards LTTE fortifications in Mannar around 0530 hrs Saturday”.

He said the military’s pre-dawn four-pronged bid was fiercely confronted and thwarted by the rebels and the heavy clashes lasted for well over eight hours.

“The Sri Lankan Army suffered at least 30 killed in action (KIA) and more than 75 others injured during clashes in the west of Giant Tank,” the rebels’ military spokesperson said, adding that only three LTTE cadres died in the fighting.

Independent verification of battlefront casualties is not possible as journalists are barred from visiting the battlefront.

Despite the adverse effects of the deadly war - violence and spiralling cost of living, resilient Sri Lankans celebrated yet another traditional Tamil-Sinhala New Year Sunday hoping for a new beginning.

The Tamil-Sinhala New Year is considered a national event, which brings together both sides of the ethic divide and fosters national consciousness on the war-ravaged island nation.

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