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Sri Lanka steps up air raid after fierce clashes


Colombo : Sri Lankan jets carried out several air raids targeting Tamil Tiger bastions Wednesday, a day after fierce clashes left scores of combatants killed in the north, military officials said.

The officials said that the jets hit defences and ditch-cum-bund fortifications of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on the outskirts of Kilinochchi since morning.

“These raids were in support of the advancing troops who are currently consolidating the newly captured positions after Tuesday’s clashes in the general areas of Iranaimadu, Paranthan and Kilinochchi,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told IANS.

The damage caused to the rebels was not immediately known.

The defence ministry also said that security forces recovered five bodies of LTTE cadres killed in Tuesday’s fighting around Kilinochchi, the rebel “political capital” located 350 km north of here.

The military said Tuesday that at least 120 LTTE cadres and 25 soldiers were killed and over 400 wounded on both sides after security forces, backed by artillery and aerial bombardment, simultaneously attacked Tamil Tiger defences around Kilinochchi and Jaffna.

It said that troops had breached rebel defences at several locations and captured a five-kilometre stretch of LTTE built earth bund-cum-ditch west of Paranthan and Kilinochchi amid fierce counter attack by the Tigers.

The military also said 25 troops were killed, with another 10 missing and 160 wounded, while an estimated 120 Tigers were killed and 250 wounded.

But the LTTE claimed that they had repulsed the multi-pronged offensive by government forces, killing 140 soldiers and wounding over 300.

The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website quoted LTTE sources as saying that 100 soldiers were killed outside Kilinochchi while 40 soldiers were killed on the Kilali front in Jaffna peninsula Tuesday.

The rebels have also claimed that they had captured the bodies of 18 troops and would return them through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Military spokesman Nanayakkara dismissed the rebel claims as “gross exaggeration” which he said sought to boost the morale of their depleted rank and file.