Sri Lanka says 26 rebels killed

April 11, 2008 (AFP) – At least 26 Tamil Tiger rebels, two soldiers and a civilian have been killed in fighting across Sri Lanka’s northern districts, the defence ministry said Friday. Security forces smashed rebel bunkers and exchanged artillery with Tamil Tiger guerrillas in two days of fighting, while air force jets bombed a suspected Tiger sea base on Thursday, the ministry said.

A Tamil laundry owner was shot dead on the Jaffna peninsula on Friday, the ministry said, blaming the attack on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

There was no immediate comment from the LTTE, who have been fighting for autonomy in the island’s north and east for Tamils from the majority Sinhalese community.

The latest violence came as both the Sinhalese and the Tamils prepared to celebrate the traditional New Year on Sunday.

Security forces have killed at least 2,750 Tamil Tiger rebels since the beginning of this year, while 158 government troops have lost their lives in the same period, according to defence ministry figures.

The guerrillas have disputed defence ministry figures. There is no independent verification of casualties since authorities prevent journalists and