Sri Lanka fighting intensifies ahead of Japanese envoy visit

Jan 12, 2008 (AFP) – Intense fighting across Sri Lanka’s embattled northern district have left at least 39 rebels and soldiers dead, the military said Saturday, ahead of a planned visit by a Japanese peace envoy. Japan, the island’s biggest aid donor, has voiced deep concern about the Colombo government’s decision last week to end its 2002 truce with Tamil Tiger rebels, saying it fears the move “would not only further stall the peace process but also worsen the conflict.”

The Japanese special peace envoy Yasushi Akashi was due to arrive in Sri Lanka on Sunday for three days of talks with President Mahinda Rajapakse and other government officials.

“He will discuss with the government the current situation of the peace process and its future,” the Japanese embassy here said in a statement.

His visit comes ahead of an escalation by security forces of attacks along rebel-held areas of Mannar and Muhamalai in Jaffna.

Some 38 guerrillas died and one soldier was killed in the region in 24 hours of fighting that ended early Saturday, the military said.

“Terrorists have suffered a heavy beating as security forces continue their thrust into the LTTE- (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) dominated Wan