45 killed as Sri Lankan military battles LTTE (Lead)

March 30th, 2009 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, March 30 (IANS) At least 44 Tamil Tiger guerrillas and a naval sailor were killed and four LTTE boats were destroyed Monday when the Sri Lankan troops fought fierce battles with the rebels in the island’s north-eastern Mullaitivu district, military authorities said here.
The pre-dawn sea clash erupted Monday when the Sri Lankan naval patrol boats confronted a cluster of LTTE boats off Chalai in Mullaitivu, where the rebels were now reportedly confined to a mere 21 square km land stretch.

“During the sea confrontation, four LTTE boats were destroyed and 26 LTTE cadres, including a Sea Tiger wing leader ‘Maran’ were killed,” Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told IANS Monday.

He said a navy sailor was also killed and three more wounded in the clash that lasted for a few hours.

Separately, the defence ministry said that the troops of 55 and 53 Divisions Sunday fought intense battles with the LTTE north of Palamathalan and breached the LTTE-built earth ditch-cum-bund. They forced their way into the last rebel stronghold, inflicting heavy damage to the rebels.

“Intercepting LTTE communication channels, it is learnt that a senior sea tiger leader known as ‘Uththaman’ who commanded the ground battle in a desperate attempt to hold the area was also killed during the battle,” it said Monday.

It said that during the subsequent search operation, the troops recovered at least 18 bodies of LTTE cadres along with their assault riffles and other war-like items.

The military said that the number of civilians fleeing the rebel-held areas defying LTTE orders was on the rise and over 55,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have entered the government-held areas since the beginning of 2009.

These IDPs are temporarily housed in welfare centres and villages in the northern Vavuniya and Jaffna districts.

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