90 killed in Sri Lanka’s bloody battle (Second Lead)

April 24th, 2008 - 12:46 am ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 23 (IANS) Sri Lanka claimed Wednesday that at least 52 Tamil Tigers and 38 soldiers were killed and scores wounded in bloody battles between advancing troops and the rebels in the island’s northern Jaffna peninsula. Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that heavy fighting broke out when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) “launched a pre-dawn attack on the military’s forward defences at Kilali and Muhamalai areas.

“At least 52 LTTE cadres were killed during these clashes. The death toll of the soldiers has risen from 15 to 38,” he said, adding 84 soldiers were also wounded in one of the worst outbreaks of fighting this year.

Nanayakkara said that having thwarted the LTTE offensive attacks, the 53 and 55 Divisions of the army went forward about 500 metres into LTTE-held areas and took control of LTTE’s first line of defence along the eight-kilometre stretch from Muhamalai to Kilali.

However, a pro-LTTE website quoting LTTE military spokesman Rasaiyah Illanthirayan reported that the rebels had “fully thwarted” the military’s pre-dawn attempt to break into LTTE-held areas on the northern front.

“The Sri Lankan Army suffered (with) more than 100 killed in action and about 400 wounded in action. Sixteen 16 LTTE cadres sacrificed their lives in this confrontation,” the Tamilnet website quoted the rebel spokesman as saying.

“In the clearing operations, 20 army (soldiers’) dead bodies were found and are to be sent back to relatives,” he has said.

Brigadier Nanayakkara, however, rejected the LTTE war casualty claims as “rubbish” and said that the army was consolidating the newly captured positions.

“The LTTE always manipulates the figures when they suffer heavy beatings at the hands of the army simply to boost the morale of its cadres,” he said.

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

Amid claims and counter-claims, the Sri Lankan war jets Wednesday afternoon carried out three air raids on suspected LTTE heavy gun positions.

“Pilots confirmed to have accurate hits and expect significant damages to the terror guns,” the defence ministry said.

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