'Many Dead' In Sri Lanka Clashes

Tamil Tiger rebels say that scores of civilians have been killed in fresh fighting between government forces and rebels in north-east Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan army has confirmed the fighting, but said it was not aware of any civilian casualties.

'Many Dead' In Sri Lanka Clashes

Two soldiers are reported to have died in fighting around the Muttur area. The fresh clashes comes despite the reopening this week of a waterway that has been at the heart of the recent fighting. The Tigers said they opened the Maavilaru waterway, in territory they control, on Tuesday. Later the government claimed credit for opening it.

'Heavy casualties'

The pro-rebel TamilNet website said more than 45 civilians have been killed in the fighting in Kathiraveli and surrounding villages. Military spokesman Maj Upali Rajapakse told the Associated Press news agency that the army "does not target civilians". He said the rebels were "known for using civilians as human shields and they place their gun positions around civilian villages". "We are on a defensive operation. We had to retaliate when our troops came under heavy attack this morning," Maj Rajapakse said.

Many soldiers were also reported to have been wounded. The Tamil Tiger rebels said government forces had launched an attack in the rebel-held territories. "They are attacking us on ground and from air," rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan told the Associated Press news agency. "From dawn today, the Sri Lankan army has launched a full-fledged offensive operation against our territories involving thousands of troops, heavy guns and bombardment," he said. The wounded troops have been taken to a hospital in the town of Kantalai where doctors are reporting casualties.

"We expect more casualties to come in today. This is the heaviest number of casualties we are handling in two days," local hospital chief DGM Costa told the AFP news agency. Earlier, the rebels said that at least five civilians have been killed in an attack by the security forces on Wednesday evening. The military did not confirm this incident.

'Complying with ceasefire'

The government had deployed some 2,000 troops in a bid to reopen the Maavilaru waterway after farmers in government-controlled areas had their supplies cut off. The fighting spread to other areas in Trincomalee district. The worst violence since the air force started bombing the area last week has centred on the north-eastern town of Muttur, some 70km (46 miles) south of the waterway. Thousands of the town's mainly Muslim residents have fled while the Tigers and military fought over it.

More than 800 people are estimated to have been killed in Sri Lanka in low-level fighting in recent months. Despite the upsurge in fighting both sides still say they are acting defensively and therefore complying with the conditions of a 2002 ceasefire.

Source: BBC

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16