Fresh fighting erupts as Sri Lanka peace bid stalls

Oct 6, 2006 (AFP) – Heavy sea and land battles erupted Friday in Sri Lanka with the military reporting the recovery of 22 bodies of Tamil rebels after a Norwegian envoy failed to secure a deal to re-launch peace talks. Some 60,000 people have been killed in the separatist conflict since 1972. The military and the rebels accused each other of sparking the fighting which came as peace broker Norway struggled to arrange a face-to-face meet between the parties and prevent the island from sliding back to full-scale war.

The defence ministry said government forces repulsed a major Tamil separatist offensive against defence lines in Mankerni in the coastal district of Batticaloa.

However, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) denied launching any offensive and in turn accused the military of starting a push into guerrilla territory.

“Sri Lankan troops are advancing into our territory and they have moved about one and a half kilometres,” LTTE spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan said by telephone from the rebel-held northern town of Kilinochchi.

He said he had no immediate details of the casualties, but added that the LTTE had already lodged protests with peace broker Norway and complained to the Scandinavian tru