Sri Lanka fighting claims 7 lives: military

May 3, 2008 (AFP) – At least seven combatants have been killed in fresh ground fighting between security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka’s embattled north, the defence ministry said Saturday. Government troops shot dead four Tiger rebels in clashes in the Weli Oya, Mannar and Jaffna regions on Friday, a ministry statement said, adding three soldiers were also killed.

The ministry also accused the rebels of detonating Saturday two roadside mines packed with steel balls in the northern region.

One Claymore mine injured two soliders while the other damaged an electricity line.

There was no immediate comment from the Tamil Tiger rebels who launched their armed struggle for an independent homeland in 1972.

Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict.

Since January, government troops have shot dead 3,322 rebels, according to the defence ministry, which says 245 soldiers have died during the same period.

The reports cannot be independently verified as Colombo bars reporters and rights groups from travelling to the embattled areas. .