Sri Lanka bunker battle kills 15, says military

Feb 21, 2008 (AFP) – At least 13 Tamil Tiger rebels and two government soldiers were killed in an intense battle for a bunker line in northern Sri Lanka, the defence ministry said Thursday. Government forces destroyed five bunkers held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during fighting on Wednesday afternoon, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The offensive came hours after suspected Tiger rebels struck in the deep south, away from the usual conflict zone, killing three soldiers guarding a highway.

The latest battle took place at Buttala, 350 kilometres (218 miles) south of the de facto state run by the Tigers in the island’s north.

There was no immediate word from the rebels about the battles, but in a statement they accused government forces of using artillery against civilian areas inside rebel-held territory and inflicting casualties among farmers and children.

According to the island’s defence ministry, at least 1,371 rebels have been killed so far this year. The military estimates the rebel strength at 5,000 combatants.

The military said 82 soldiers and police have been killed over the same period.

Casualty figures provided by both sid