40 killed in heavy fighting in Sri Lanka

April 3rd, 2008 - 11:51 pm ICT by admin  

Colombo, April 3 (DPA) Heavy fighting continued in northern Sri Lanka as government troops carried out operations to recapture rebel-held areas amid stiff resistance, leaving at least 40 dead. Over the past two days at least 37 rebels and three soldiers have been killed in the northern Mannar and Vavuniya areas more than 250 km north of the capital, a military spokesman said.

Troops continued their operations as government Thursday accepted nominations to conduct a provincial election in the eastern province which was recaptured by the military last year.

Elections will be held May 10 in the province which consists of three districts - Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara.

As fighting continued in Mannar area a Catholic Bishop ordered a group of priests to leave a church with a historic shrine.

The shrine of Our Lady of Madu, located in the Madu area of the Mannar district, 320 km north of the capital was threatened by fighting between government troops and Tamil rebels.

The Catholic church in the past 25 years provided refuge for tens of thousands of people displaces by the conflict.

“Today the historic shrine itself has to seek refuge. I have told the remaining priests to withdraw from the church area in view of the fighting,” Bishop of Mannar Rayappu Joseph said.

He said the five priests, three nuns and five civilians were all told to move towards the rebel-held areas as was impossible to move towards the army-controlled areas.

Fighting escalated during the past five months among government claims that more than 2,500 rebels and more than 300 security forces were killed.

The conflict over the 25 years has so far claimed over 76,000 lives and displaced tens of thousands with no immediate solution in sight.

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