Sri Lanka press rebels for release of soldier after heavy battle

July 16, 2006 (AFP) – July 16, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka pressed for the release of a soldier captured by Tamil Tiger rebels following a heavy mortar duel at the weekend that killed at least 16 combatants, officials said Sunday. The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) returned the bodies of 12 soldiers killed by them Friday at the village of Vakaneri in eastern Sri Lanka, but were holding onto a 24-year-old soldier, a defence ministry official said.

“We have asked the ceasefire monitors to intervene and get the soldier released,” the official said as the government also renewed a call for the release of a police officer the Tigers have held for more than 10 months.

The Tigers said they killed 12 troops and lost four of their own men in Friday’s long-range battle, the highest toll since a sea battle killed 15 sailors and about 30 guerrillas on June 17.

The government’s request came as two taxi drivers were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the northern peninsula of Jaffna on Sunday, the defence ministry said.

It said in a statement the men were killed in the town of Point Pedro and the motive was not immediately clear but police had begun investigations.

Defence officials said the government hoped