Sri Lanka military says 41 killed in fresh fighting

Feb 25, 2008 (AFP) – At least 36 Tamil Tiger guerrillas and five Sri Lankan government soldiers have been killed in fresh fighting in and around rebel-held territory, the island’s defence ministry said Monday. War planes bombed a suspected Tamil Tiger naval base in the district of Kilinochchi on Sunday, inflicting heavy damage, the ministry said, adding that 10 rebels, including a self-styled lieutenant colonel, were killed.

Another 26 Tiger guerrillas and five soldiers were killed in ground attacks in the north of the island, it said.

For their part, the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said two air strikes on Sunday had hit civilians inside their territory.

The Tigers, who are leading a decades-old campaign for independence for minority Tamils in this majority Sinhalese nation of 19.5 million people, said two civilians were wounded.

The rebels made no reference to ground attacks.

According to the defence ministry, 1,581 rebels have been killed so far this year. The military estimates the Tigers’ strength at 5,000 combatants.

The military says 90 soldiers and police have also been killed in 2008.

Casualty figures provided by both sides differ vastly and cannot