Sri Lanka troops in clearing operations after fighting

Sri Dharanee Performance Arts Theatre

COLOMBO, March 22, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops were engaged in clearing operations on Thursday, the day after simultaneous Tamil Tiger guerrilla attacks left at least 20 people dead and dozens more wounded, officials said. Fighting on Wednesday in the eastern district of Batticaloa and Muhamalai in the north of the war-torn island claimed the lives of 15 Tamil Tiger rebels, four government troops and a civilian, officials said.

Some 40 civilians were also injured in the fighting in Batticaloa, prompted by an attack by some 300 Tiger rebels.

There was no immediate word on the fighting from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been waging a separatist war since 1972.

According to the defence ministry, the clearing operations have led to the recovery of a large haul of weapons, ammunition and mines left behind by the Tigers after they pulled back to their jungle stronghold of Thoppigala.

Official figures show 148,419 people were listed as internally displaced in the Batticaloa district since the military captured a key base of the Tigers in January.

Since then, the military has also stepped up attacks against Tamil Tiger boats and claimed sinking three large supply ships that were all