Artillery duels along de facto front lines in Sri Lanka

May 31, 2006 (AFP) – Heavy artillery exchanges rocked northern Sri Lanka Wednesday, a day after the government ruled out military action to resolve a long-running ethnic conflict following a European ban on Tiger rebels. More than 600 people have been killed in Sri Lanka since December despite a truce arranged and put in place by peace broker Norway since February 2002. The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the military exchanged artillery and mortar bomb attacks along the Muhamalai front line in the Jaffna peninsula, the pro-rebel website said.

It said the military had retreated from some of their frontline positions and the Tigers had advanced a “significant distance” following the fighting that lasted over two hours.

“The LTTE has advanced significant distance towards the Sri Lanka army’s forward defence line (FDL) and, the Sri Lanka army has been forced to move back from their FDLs,” Tamilnet quoted its sources as saying.

However, the military spokesman here, Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe, denied any rebel advance.

He acused the Tigers of initiating the battle.

“We have not moved back an inch,” Samarasinghe said, adding that security forces had successfully repulsed the