Sri Lanka peace talks in balance after fierce battle

Oct 12, 2006 (AFP) – Tamil Tiger rebels inflicted heavy losses on Sri Lankan troops in fierce fighting that reportedly killed 244 combatants and wounded over 430, dashing peace hopes, officials said Thursday. Some 60,000 people have been killed overall in the three-decades-old conflict between minority Tamils seeking an independent homeland and government forces. Defence officials privately admitted that the military, which had appeared to be on a roll recently, had suffered a “bloody nose” following Wednesday’s failed offensive against the rebels in the northern peninsula of Jaffna.

“There is no doubt that the army suffered a bloody nose,” a top defence source said. “It was a big mistake. There should have been better planning.”

Sri Lanka’s government said Thursday that 44 of its soldiers were killed and 430 wounded in the fighting.

It claimed 200 rebels were also killed.

However, the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) group said only 10 of its fighters had been killed.

It also announced plans to hand over the bodies of 75 government troops through the International Red Cross.

The clashes came only hours after Norway’s top peace broker, Erik Solheim, had announced a deal betwe