May 9, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops killed at least 35 Tamil Tiger rebels during heavy clashes just outside the newly demarcated “safety zone” for war-trapped civilians, the defence ministry said on Saturday. Security forces who captured a mud embankment built by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on Thursday moved deeper into the remaining territory held by the guerrillas amid stiff resistance, the ministry said.
“In subsequent search operation conducted in the area, troops have found 35 bodies of LTTE terrorists killed in fighting along with LTTE military hardware,” the ministry said in a statement.
It did not give military casualties, but the latest report came as the government reduced the size of the “safe zone” for civilians trapped by the fighting.
The government estimates that up to 20,000 civilians are being held by the LTTE as human shields. The United Nations has said the number could be as high as 50,000.
A military official said Tiger rebels had on Friday shot and killed a man who tried to escape. Another 12 civilians were wounded, but managed to reach a military post and receive medical attention, the official said.
Military spokesman brigadier Udaya Nan