Heavy fighting in Sri Lanka kills 145-military

Simultaneous army attacks on Tamil Tiger defences in Sri Lanka killed 120 guerrillas and 25 soldiers on Tuesday, the military said, in one of the bloodiest days of a renewed push to end one of Asia’s oldest civil wars.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said its fighters killed 40 soldiers near the Kilali defence line on the Jaffna Peninsula, the pro-rebel web site www.TamilNet.com said, quoting Tiger officials. It made no mention of Tiger casualties.

Sri Lankan troops assaulted rebel defences at Kilali and Muhumalai on the narrow neck of the Jaffna Peninsula and to the west and southwest of Kilinochchi, where they captured a 5-km (3-mile) strech of trench, the military said.

The attacks are the most concentrated since monsoon rains and floods that had slowed the military’s advance on the rebels’ self-declared capital of Kilinochchi cleared two weeks ago.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has made the most military progress of any against the LTTE in the 25-year war. He threw out a poorly observed 2002 truce in January, accusing the LTTE of using it to re-arm and vowed to wipe them out.

"From the confrontations, 120 LTTE cadres were killed and 250 were wounded. Twenty-five soldiers were killed, 10 are missing and 160 are injured," spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The air force said Mi-24 attack helicopters blew up a Sea Tiger boat and damaged others trying to attack soldiers fighting on the western approach to Kilinochchi from the lagoon separating the island and Jaffna.
Both sides bar independent observers from the war zone, making confirmation of battlefield statistics difficult. Both sides have also routinely distorted casualty figures.


Kilinochchi is a strategic target for the military and a symbol of the separate state the LTTE wants to create for Sri Lankan Tamils.

Since September, the military has said it has been within striking distance, but analysts say the Tigers have chosen to make their stand there so fighting has been heavy.

Soldiers are fighting along a curving front, aiming to take Kilinochchi in the centre of the island, then sweep the Tigers east to the other major town they control, the Mullaitivu port.

Human Rights Watch said on Monday the LTTE has stopped at least 230,000 civilians from fleeing the war zone, to keep them both as a shield against superior military firepower and a ready pool for forced conscription and battlefield labour.

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