Sri Lanka fighting rages despite calls for halt

May 13, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers put up stiff resistance to advancing government troops on Wednesday, in heavy fighting that saw the beleaguered rebels launch a wave of suicide attacks, the military said. The clashes came as both sides in the brutal conflict faced renewed charges of war crimes, with the United Nations describing the situation as “absolutely awful” and a rights group saying civilians were being used as “cannon fodder.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her British counterpart David Miliband also appealed for a halt in the fighting to allow thousands of trapped civilians to escape.

But the island’s military, which says it has the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) surrounded in just four square kilometres (1.5 square miles) of coastal jungle, said fighting continued to rage.

It said at least 10 guerrillas died in a wave of suicide boat strikes against army positions along the northeast coast. It added that several government troops were wounded, but gave no further details.

There was no immediate comment from the rebels, and the army’s claims cannot be independently verified as independent journalists, diplomats and most aid agencies are barred from goi