Troops overrun LTTE bunkers: 26 killed
Soldiers overran separatist Tamil rebel bunkers and traded artillery fire across Sri Lanka's embattled north yesterday leaving 26 insurgents dead, the military said, just days after the country's 2002 cease-fire collapsed.
Troops destroyed four bunkers in the Nagarkovil and Muhamalai areas of the Jaffna peninsula killing six Tamil Tiger rebels, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Soldiers meanwhile attacked two bunkers in Adampan village, Mannar district, and exchanged artillery rounds with the rebels, killing 10 of them, the statement said.
In Parappaankandal village, also in Mannar, soldiers overran six rebel bunkers and killed 10 guerrillas, the military's statement said.
Eight soldiers were wounded in Saturday's clashes, it added.
According the government figures, 38 rebels have died in separate clashes since the start of this month while three soldiers have been killed.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not immediately available for comment.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka urgently needs an international rights monitoring mission following Colombo's decision to pull out of a ceasefire pact with Tamil rebels, a London-based rights group said yesterday.
The Minority Rights Group International said Colombo's decision to formally withdraw from the ceasefire deal with the rebels would result in escalating violence and lead to more rights abuses against minority Tamils and Muslims.
The Scandinavian monitoring mission appointed to oversee the ceasefire will cease operations January 16 following the government's decision announced earlier this week.
"There is now going to be a greater void in the monitoring and reporting of human rights abuses in the conflict zone," Minority Rights Group's director Mark Lattimer said in a statement received here.
"The need for international human rights monitors is now ever more crucial," Lattimer said.
Sri Lanka has rejected previous calls for a UN rights mission here.
The rights group accused the Sri Lankan government of reducing security of key minority politicians and called on Colombo to ensure proper protection for minority political leaders.
The statement came after opposition Tamil lawmaker T. Maheswaran was gunned down earlier this week in Colombo as he prayed at a Hindu Temple.
The assassination came just two weeks after Colombo withdrew security from the MP, who later declared in parliament that the government would be responsible if anything happened to him.
Meanwhile, fighting continued in the island's north with the military saying it killed six rebels in Mannar district during the 24 hours ending Saturday morning.
There was no comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who are fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the island's north and east.
Independent verification of casualty figures is not possible as journalists are not allowed into rebel-held areas. Both sides are known to make sharply varying casualty claims.
Tens of thousands of people have died on both sides since the conflict erupted in 1972.