Sri Lanka’s warring parties say heavy battles in north

Dec 30, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s security forces and Tamil rebels were locked in fierce fighting Sunday in the island’s north with both sides claiming to have inflicted heavy losses against the other. The defence ministry said troops killed at least 33 members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and wounded another 38 in the latest battles in the district of Mannar.

The ministry placed its own losses at six soldiers wounded, but the Tigers said they killed at least 20 government soldiers and wounded another 40. The rebels placed their own losses at three guerrillas killed.

“The Sri Lanka armed forces fighting units are already beaten back in two of the three fronts,” Tiger spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan said in a statement.

“Both sides use heavy artillery, multi-barrel rocket launchers and small mortars to provide tactical support fire to respective troops. The shelling duel and fire fights still continue in those areas,” the statement said.

Both sides regularly make sharply differing claims about casualties and independent verification is rarely possible. Journalists are also not allowed access into rebel-held areas in the north.

Sri Lanka is pressing for a military