15 killed, 66 wounded in fresh Sri Lanka clashes

By P. Karunakharan, IANS,

Colombo : At least 10 Tamil Tiger rebels and five soldiers were killed and over 60 wounded in fierce clashes between the two sides in Sri Lanka’s northern Jaffna peninsula Monday, defence sources said.

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According to a defence ministry report, fresh clashes erupted when a large group of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres backed by heavy mortar fire launched an attack at the forward bunker defences manned by 55 and 53 divisions at Muhamalai in Jaffna.

“The soldiers initially retaliated with small arms fire and then engaged in heavy artillery and rocket fire at the retreating terrorists,” the defence ministry said.

“Two soldiers were killed, one more reported missing and 14 suffered injuries while defending their positions. Three other soldiers were killed due to explosions of trapped mines,” it said.

Three of the wounded have been air lifted to the Colombo National Hospital, while the others were transferred to the Palali military base hospital.

“Meanwhile, sources have confirmed that 10 terrorists, including two leaders, were killed and at least 52 suffered injuries in the retaliatory fire by the army,” the defence ministry said.

However, the pro-LTTE Tamilnet website, quoting LTTE sources, said the rebels had “defeated a fresh attempt by the Sri Lanka Army to break into the LTTE Forward Defence Line, killing eight SLA (Sri Lankan Army) soldiers and recovering the body of one SLA soldier in Muhamalai Monday around 10 a.m.”

“The LTTE has seized a light machine gun from the SLA in the confrontation where more than 20 SLA soldiers were wounded,” the Tigers have said.

The LTTE did not issue its own casualty details.

Over 200 were killed and nearly 1,000 wounded on both sides when the advancing troops and the rebels engaged in a fierce gunbattle in same Muhamalai area on April 23.