Sri Lanka violence kills 13, including 8 civilians

Thirteen people, including eight civilians caught in a mortar barrage, were killed in fierce fighting between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tiger rebels, the military and rebels said Friday.

Sri Lanka violence kills 13, including 8 civilians

In eastern Sri Lanka, where the army has stepped up its assault onrebel bases, mortar shells slammed into a village on the frontline offighting late Thursday killing eight civilians, including at least twochildren.

Separately, a roadside bomb placed by the rebels blewup a military vehicle on Friday, killing five Sri Lankan soldiers andwounding one, near Vavuniya the last government-held garrison townbefore rebel territory in the north, said military spokesman Brig.Prasad Samarasinghe.

Both sides blamed each other for theshelling late Thursday, which came as the army stepped up its effortsto oust the rebels from bases they control in eastern Sri Lanka. Themilitary has reportedly killed up to 140 insurgents in recent assaults.

Fightingin the last two days has centered on the rebels' Thoppigala base, oneof their last redoubts in the area, which has proved difficult for thegovernment to conquer due to a huge rock formation that providesperfect cover for rebel fighters during combat.

The army said the deadly mortar fire came from this base.

"We are left with no option but to intensify our operations to silence their guns," Samarasinghe said.

EightTamil civilians who had taken cover in a government-controlled areawere killed and 18 more wounded, said senior official Lt. Col. UpaliRajapakse.

Continuing mortar fire

He said the army was trying to evacuate the wounded but hampered by continuing mortar fire.

However,Tamil Tiger military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said it was themilitary who had been shelling the area as part of its offensive.

TamilNet, a pro-rebel Web site, said the dead included three siblings aged 2, 15 and 18.

Local police officer H. M. D. Herath confirmed at least two children were among the dead.

It was not possible to independently verify the claims and both sides frequently blame each other for civilian deaths.

InVavuniya, Samarasinghe said the roadside bomb -- a favored weapon ofthe rebels -- hit a tractor the troops were traveling on to deliverfood to comrades.

Sri Lanka's undeclared war took on heighteneddrama this week, with the rebels' first airstrike of the conflictMonday, a suicide bombing at a military camp Tuesday and a naval battleoff the eastern coast on Thursday.

Sri Lankan navy shipsintercepted a flotilla of Tamil Tiger boats during Thursday'sthree-hour sea battle, sinking three of them and killing at least 16rebels.

The rebels launched their fight for an independenthomeland for the country's 3.1 million Tamils in 1983 after decades ofdiscrimination by the majority Sinhalese. In the years since, they havepioneered the use of suicide bomb belts and slowly built up a navy ofsmall gunboats.

Hopes for peace that followed the 2002 cease-firehave been dashed in the past 18 months as sporadic shootings andbombings have grown into an all-out war in eastern and northern SriLanka, where the Tigers want to establish their separate state.

An estimated 69,000 people have been killed in the violence.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16