Dozens dead in heavy fighting across Sri Lanka: govt

July 26, 2008 (AFP) – At least 66 Tamil Tiger rebels and eight government soldiers have died in the latest fighting in northern Sri Lanka, the island’s defence ministry said Saturday.

The fighting on Friday was centred around Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya and the Weli Oya regions, the ministry said. There was no immediate comment on the claims from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The toll brings to 5,301 the number of rebels the military says it has killed since the start of the year when the government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire.
Just 464 soldiers government soldiers have died in the same period, according to ministry figures.

Casualty claims cannot be verified independently because the ministry blocks journalists from visiting frontlines.

Colombo appears to be pressing ahead with its military offensive in the north despite the guerrillas’ offer of a 10-day unilateral ceasefire ahead of a summit of heads of eight South Asian leaders that starts here on Sunday.

Colombo has brushed off the truce offer despite rebel threats to take “defensive action.” Sri Lanka is hosting a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meetin