Sri Lanka fighting hits lull

Sept 3, 2006 (AFP) – Fighting between troops and Tamil Tigers near a key northeast port hit a lull Sunday, residents said, a day after 80 rebels were reportedly killed in a sea battle off the northern Jaffna peninsula. Artillery guns were silent in the restive port district of Trincomalee since the weekend, residents said, adding that in a sign of eased tensions the mobile phone network was switched on Saturday.

During the height of artillery exchanges between Tiger rebels and the military, the authorities halted cellular phone operations to prevent the rebels using them to better target their attacks.

“There is relative quiet in Trincomalee and our mobile phones are working again after weeks,” a resident in Trincomalee, 260 kilometres (160 miles) northeast of the capital said by telephone.

Military officials said Sunday that a ground offensive to capture a rebel artillery gun position that targetted the port complex had been called off in favour of air raids.

Meanwhile, a second cargo ship was due to leave the capital Sunday with supplies of food and medicine for desperate residents of embattled Jaffna peninsula, where the navy said it killed 80 Tamil rebels in a fierce six-hour sea battle on Saturday.