Sri Lanka war death toll rises to 90 (Lead)

April 23rd, 2008 - 8:06 pm ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 23 (IANS) At least 52 Tamil Tigers and 38 soldiers were killed and scores wounded in fierce fighting Wednesday between advancing Sri Lankan troops and the rebels in the northern Jaffna peninsula, the military said. 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.

“Some of the wounded soldiers have been airlifted to Colombo for further treatment,” he said.

“Our troops successfully retaliated the LTTE offensive and went forward about 500 metres into LTTE-held areas along the eight-kilometre Forward Defence Line from Muhamalai to Kilali,” Brig. Nanayakkara said.

He said the Sri Lanka Army’s 55 and 53 divisions “are now consolidating their newly captured positions”.

Meanwhile, the pro-LTTE Tamilnet website quoted rebel sources as saying that the military’s pre-dawn attempt to break into LTTE-held areas on the northern front had been “fully thwarted”.

“Sri Lanka Army units that attempted to break the Forward Defence Line of the LTTE in Kilali, Muhamalai and on several other positions were forced to retreat, leaving behind dead bodies,” the report claimed.

Claiming that the fighting lasted well over eight hours, it said that the Sri Lankan Army suffered heavy casualties as the Tigers put up stiff resistance.

“Casualty details would be released after the ongoing clearing mission is completed,” the Tigers said.

The escalation in violence between the advancing government troops and the LTTE in the Wanni, Jaffna and Mannar regions has left hundreds of combatants dead.

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

Fighting has escalated in Sri Lanka since December 2005. The military captured the whole of the eastern province from the LTTE last year and it is now trying to seize rebel territory in the north.

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