Sri Lanka military receives bodies of 17 soldiers

December 30, 2008 (AFP) – The Sri Lanka military has received the bodies of 17 soldiers killed while fighting Tamil Tiger rebels in the island’s embattled north, the defence ministry said on Tuesday. The bodies were sent by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) through the International Committee of the Red Cross in the frontline town of Omanthai on Monday, the ministry said.

The military in October announced that it will not announce details of its battlefield casualties saying that it would affect ongoing operations against the Tigers.

However, the military said on Tuesday that heavy fighting continued in the northern jungle areas of Mullaittivu and Kilinochchi where the Tigers maintain their military and political bases respectively.

“Intercepted terrorist radio transmissions have confirmed heavy damages to the terrorists during these clashes,” the ministry said.

The rebels did not comment on the military statement.

Fighting has intensified since Sri Lanka pulled out of a Norwegian-backed truce in January as the government is confident of crushing the rebels who have been fighting for a homeland for minority Tamils since 1972.