28 rebels killed in Lanka clashes
Sri Lanka's defence ministry said yesterday its forces had killed at least 28 Tamil Tiger rebels in the latest clashes across the north of the island.
The fighting on Saturday in the Mannar, Vavuniya, Weli Oya and Jaffna areas saw one soldier killed, the ministry said. It also said 25 rebels and 34 soldiers were injured.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), however, said that they had killed four soldiers in the Vavuniya area alone. The rebels did not report on their own losses.
Casualty figures in Sri Lanka cannot be independently verified, as the defence ministry bars journalists from reporting from frontline areas or travelling into the rebel-held north.
On Saturday security forces killed at least 13 guerrillas in separate attacks in the north and bombed a rebel base, the military said Saturday.
Air force fighter jets pounded a rebel base in Pooneryn late on Friday, hours after the guerrillas set off bombs in the southern suburb of Colombo and central district of Kandy, the defence ministry said.
The latest defence ministry figures bring to 4,122 the number of rebels killed since the start of the year, when the government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the rebels.
The ministry says it has lost only 340 soldiers during the same period.
The Tigers are fighting to carve out an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the island's north and east. Tens of thousands of people have died on both sides in more than 35 years of conflict.
Earlier Sri Lankan police detained more than 50 people for questioning following twin bomb attacks blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels that killed 23 civilians, the defence ministry said on Saturday.
The suspects were rounded up near the town of Moratuwa, south of Colombo, where a crowded passenger bus hit a roadside mine during morning rush-hour on Friday, killing 21 civilians, military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said.
"Fifty-one people have been picked up for questioning" in connection with the Moratuwa blast, Nanayakkara told AFP.
Some of those detained were rounded up on Friday night, while the rest were picked up on Saturday, he said.