Sri Lanka troops capture Tiger diving gear: military

February 20, 2009 (AFP) – Security forces captured diving equipment and underwater “scooters” used by suicide bombers after heavy fighting with Tamil Tiger rebels in the island’s northeast, the defence ministry said on Friday. Troops seized the equipment after five hours of fighting at the village of Ampalavanpokkanai on Thursday, the ministry said in a statement.

Government forces are keeping up a major offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrillas who have been cornered in a narrow strip of coastal jungle area in the district of Mullaittivu.

The fighting has raised concern for the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the conflict zone.

The LTTE in a statement Friday accused the military of killing 34 civilians in shelling on Thursday.

Sri Lanka’s military has denied targeting civilians.

Independent verification of claims and counter claims is not possible as the island’s authorities have restricted access to the region by relief agencies, diplomats and independent journalists.

There was no immediate comment from the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has a limited presence in the area.

However, the ICRC said earlier this month that “h