Sri Lanka fighting kills 50: ministry

May 19, 2008 (AFP) – At least 50 people have died in fresh fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in northern Sri Lanka, the island’s defence ministry said Monday. The clashes, coinciding with a Buddhist holiday and nationwide religious services, left 40 guerillas dead and 13 soldiers killed or missing, the ministry said.

The fighting, which raged on Sunday, raises the number of rebels killed by security forces since the start of the year to 3,774, while 286 soldiers have died in combat during the same period, according to ministry figures.

The figures cannot be independently verified as the government bars media, aid workers and rights groups from visiting war-ravaged areas.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s capital was on high alert, with 1,500 extra policemen in Colombo during the week-long festivities, police officials said.

Last week a suicide bomber rammed into a police bus in Colombo, killing 13 people and wounding close to 100.