December 20, 2007 / 6:53 AM / 10 years ago

Sri Lanka military says kills 28 rebels in 24 hours

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lankan troops have killed 28 Tamil Tiger rebels in a series of clashes in the island’s north in 24 hours, the military said on Thursday, amid near daily clashes as renewed civil war deepens.

Four rebels were killed in two clashes in the northern Jaffna peninsula on Thursday morning, while 24 were killed in three confrontations in the northern districts of Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna on Wednesday, the military said.

“Troops went forward and attacked two bunkers in Kilali (on the Jaffna peninsula). Two Tigers were killed and two soldiers were injured,” said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.

“Also in Nagarkovil in Jaffna troops observed two Tigers coming towards the forward defense line and opened fire, killing them,” he added. “On Wednesday, 24 were killed.”

The Tigers were not immediately available for comment, but nearly always dismiss death toll figures given by the military. There was no independent confirmation of the death toll or what really happened.

Analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own amid a parallel propaganda war.

The military said on Wednesday intelligence sources had confirmed elusive rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was wounded in an air raid nearly a month ago, though a top government official had said there was no evidence he was hurt.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who seek to carve out an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka, called the claim “rubbish”.

Well over 5,000 people have been killed since early last year alone amid near daily land and sea battles, bombings and air raids.

The military has vowed to wipe out the Tigers militarily and clear the rebels from territory they control in the island’s north after driving them from eastern strongholds earlier this year.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa warned on Monday he could reimpose a ban on the Tigers if they continue to mount large scale attacks, a move analysts say would put any hope of renewed peace talks even further out of reach.

Military analysts say there is no clear winner on the horizon, and fear a war in which around 70,000 people have been killed since 1983 could rumble on for years.

Reporting by Simon Gardner; Editing by Jerry Norton

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