May 18, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka mounted air and ground attacks against the Tamil Tigers across the island’s embattled northern district at the weekend, killing at least 17 rebels, the defence ministry said Sunday.
Russian-built Mi-24 helicopter gunships backed troops advancing towards rebel-held areas in the Mannar area on Sunday, air force spokesman Wing Commander Andrew Wjesuriya said.
On Saturday, ground troops killed 17 rebels in combat in the restive regions of Mannar, Vavuniya and Weli Oya, the ministry statement said, without giving any details about government casualties.
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Security forces also accused the Tamil Tigers of gunning down a man belonging to the island’s majority Sinhalese community in the Vavuniya district on Saturday.
There was no immediate comment from the Tiger rebels, who have been fighting since 1972 for a separate homeland for minority Tamils in the island’s north and east.
The latest round of fighting raises the number of rebels killed by security forces since the start of the year to 3,734, while 276 soldiers have died in combat during the same period, according to ministry figures.
The rebels in the past have dismissed government claims of their casualty figures