Sri Lanka fighting kills 26 soldiers

Chandi Dharmaratne

Sept 9, 2006 (AFP) – At least 26 troops were killed and over 125 wounded Saturday in new fighting as Tamil rebels resisted an army advance into guerrilla-held territory in northern Sri Lanka, military sources said. Hundreds of Sri Lankan troops were involved in the offensive along the de facto border between government- and rebel-held areas in the Jaffna peninsula, the sources said.

The operation, launched from three locations along the front lines, sparked clashes with the rebels, the sources said, adding troops had moved almost a kilometer (half-mile) into territory previously held by the Tigers.

“There was heavy resistance initially,” a military source said. “Casualties are mainly due to long-range weapons fired by the Tamil Tigers. The operation was launched to secure the army’s forward defence lines.”

“At least one officer and 25 soldiers were killed and about 125 were wounded, and most of them were listed as walking wounded,” said another military source, declining to be named.

There was no immediate word from the Tigers about the latest clashes or about any possible casualties on their side.

However, the pro-rebel website said there had been no casualties among the rebels.