Sri Lanka death toll hits 119 as troops halt offensive

Aug 29, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops facing heavy resistance halted an advance Tuesday into territory held by the rebel Tamil Tigers, as the death toll from recent fighting hit 119, officials and guerrillas said. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the Sri Lankan conflict. Political talks on ending the violence stalled in April 2003. The drive to nullify rebel artillery guns in Sampur town, which threaten the strategically important naval port of Trincomalee about 10 kilometres (six miles) away, stalled because of rebel resistance, a military officer said.

He said artillery duels had died down Tuesday, but war planes bombed suspected Tamil Tiger bases north of Trincomalee in a bid to knock out guerrilla supplies.

The battle for Sampur included air, artillery and ground attacks over late Sunday and Monday.

Military sources said 15 soldiers were killed and another 92 wounded.

It is the latest bloody clash in Sri Lanka’s three-decade-old ethnic conflict, which has escalated since December after a February 2002 ceasefire began unravelling.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) also shelled an army camp in the neighbouring district of Batticaloa.

“There were heavy mortar attacks ag