Sri Lankan troops kill 20 rebels

October 11, 2008 (AFP) – Heavy fighting continued between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels across Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north, with the military killing 20 guerrillas, the defence ministry said Saturday. Friday’s fighting, which took place across several northern fronts, also killed five soldiers and wounded 18, the ministry said.

The latest fighting raised the number of rebels killed by troops since January to 7,386, while 732 soldiers have died in the same period.

Casualty figures cannot be verified as the ministry blocks journalists from travelling to the frontlines.

There was no immediate comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for a separate state for minority Tamils since 1972.

Having wrested the east from the Tigers in July 2007, troops are now moving to dismantle the LTTE’s mini-state in the north.

Sri Lanka’s army chief said last week that troops are just outside the northern town of Kilinochchi, which has been the LTTE’s administrative centre for the past decade.

Sri Lanka pulled out of a six-year Norwegian-brokered truce in January and has poured in a record 1.5 billion dollars into this year’s war effort.