July 25, 2008 (AFP) – Heavy ground battles across Sri Lanka’s north claimed the lives of 59 Tamil Tiger rebels and two soldiers, the defence ministry said Friday. Fresh fighting broke out on Thursday and Friday in the northeastern district of Mullaittivu as troops moved deeper into rebel-held areas, the ministry said.
There was no immediate comment on the claims from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), although the rebels accused army commandos of setting off a roadside mine deep inside their territory on Friday, killing a local official.
The latest government figures bring to 5,235 the number of Tamil Tigers the defence ministry has said it has killed since the start of the year while 456 soldiers have died during the same period.
Independent verification of casualty figures is not possible as the ministry blocks media access to the frontlines.
Tens of thousands have died since the Tamil Tigers began their campaign in 1972 for a separate homeland for minority Tamils in the island’s north and east.