Jan 19, 2008 (AFP) – At least 31 Sri Lankan guerrillas and one soldier were killed in heavy fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels across the embattled north, the defence ministry said on Saturday. The rebels died in clashes Friday and early Saturday in the Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna districts bordering the de facto mini-state run by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the defence ministry said in a statement.
A government trooper was killed in Vavuniya late Friday, it said.
The latest ministry figures raised the death toll since the start of the year to 469 rebels and 21 soldiers. The figures cannot be independently checked as no journalists or rights groups have access to the embattled areas.
The latest fighting came after the military accused the Tigers of killing at least 10 civilians late Thursday in the relatively calm south of the island.
Both the LTTE and the largely ethnic-Sinhalese armed forces have been accused of killing civilians during the decades-old ethnic war that has left tens of thousands of people dead.
Suspected rebels triggered a roadside bomb killing 27 villagers on a bus, as a truce signed by the LTTE and the government in 2002 officially e