Sri Lanka says 33 killed in weekend fighting

COLOMBO, March 17, 2008 (AFP) – At least 31 Tamil Tiger rebels and two security personnel were killed in weekend clashes in Sri Lanka’s north, the defence ministry said Monday. Sri Lanka pulled out of a six-year truce with the LTTE in January, saying it had gained the upper hand militarily in the decades-long conflict.

Security forces battled the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the districts of Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna, leaving 17 rebels dead on Saturday and another 14 dead on Sunday, the ministry said.

A policeman was shot dead by the Tigers while a soldier was killed in a roadside bomb attack on Sunday, it added.

The latest deaths bring the number of rebels killed by security forces since the start of the year to 2,136, according to the ministry. A total of 126 government soldiers have died during the same period, it said.

Casualty figures cannot be independently verified as the government prevents reporters and rights groups from visiting frontline areas.