Sri Lanka heavy fighting kills 52 ahead of South Asian summit

August 2, 2008 (AFP) – Heavy fighting broke out in northern Sri Lanka on the eve of a South Asian summit in the capital, leaving at least 14 government soldiers and 38 rebels killed, a military official said Saturday. The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) offered stiff resistance to a military advance in the Mallavi area, deep inside rebel-held territory on Friday, spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said.

“Terrorists have lobbed hundreds of mortars in order to slow down the advancing soldiers,” the defence ministry said.

The latest clashes came as Sri Lanka hosted a two-day summit of the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in the capital Colombo on Saturday.

The defence ministry said helicopter gunships were deployed to provide cover for ground troops engaged in the battle with the Tigers in the island’s north.

The Tamil Tigers said they had resisted a major military onslaught against them and claimed killing 30 government soldiers and wounding another 60.

The pro-rebel website reported that the Tigers had also seized a troop carrier that was trying to evacuate wounded soldiers.

The guerrillas did not give their casualties.