Sri Lanka military says 27 Tamil rebels killed

COLOMBO, Oct 18, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military said Thursday that its troops killed 27 suspected Tamil Tigers in renewed clashes in the island’s north, although the rebels dismissed some incidents as attacks on civilians. The Sri Lankan navy fired early Thursday at a cluster of Tamil Tiger boats off the northwest coast. They recovered an abandoned rebel boat with four bodies and three survivors, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website, however, said the boat was carrying seven civilians who were fleeing Sri Lanka for India, and that at least at least three members of the same family were killed.

Elsewhere in the north, the military claimed it killed 23 rebels in sporadic clashes across the embattled north and northeast over the past 24 hours.

No independent confirmation of the claims was immediately available, and there was no comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Both sides are known to exaggerate casualty figures.

Firing across the northern frontline of Omanthai forced the International Red Cross (ICRC) to pull back its staff on Wednesday, ICRC spokesman Davide Vignati said.

ICRC work along the frontlines to provide safe passage for