Death toll of Sri Lanka’s bloodiest battle keeps soaring(Roundup)

April 24th, 2008 - 2:09 am ICT by admin  

Colombo, April 24 (IANS) The Sri Lankan military claimed Wednesday night that at least 43 soldiers were killed, 33 went missing and 120 wounded in of one of the bloodiest battles 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”.

“According to latest reports, we have 43 soldiers killed in action, 33 soldiers missing in action and another 120 wounded in action,” Brig. Nananayakkara told IANS over phone Wednesday night.

The military spokesman, who earlier placed the LTTE death toll at 52, said the rebels also “believed to have suffered (with) not less than 100 cadres killed and several hundred wounded”.

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, LTTE military spokesman Rasaiyah Illanthirayan in an e-mail statement to the media claimed 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 LTTE cadres sacrificed their lives in this confrontation,” he claimed, adding that the rebels have recovered 30 army (soldiers’) dead bodies from the battle scene.

He also released a long list of military hardware items claimed to have been left behind by the military.

Brigadier Nanayakkara, however, rejected the LTTE war casualty claims as “rubbish and grossly exaggerated” and said that the army was consolidating its 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 gun positions.

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

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