Lanka hits Tiger base, 17 killed in clashes
Sri Lankan war planes destroyed a suspected Tamil Tiger logistics base in the island's northeast yesterday after ground battles left 15 guerrillas and two soldiers dead, the defence ministry said.
Air force fighter jets pounded a "logistics base and combat vehicle conversion plant" in Mullaitivu district early Sunday, the ministry said.
"Pilots confirm that the target was successfully engaged on accurate military intelligence and the entire terrorist complex was on fire after the air strike," the ministry said in a statement.
However, the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said Sri Lankan jets had killed two civilians and wounded 11 more in the Sunday morning attack.
"Two civilians were killed by an aerial bombing of the Sri Lankan air force on Sunday in Puthukkuriruppu town centre (in Mullaitivu district)," the Tigers said in a statement. "Eleven civilians were injured. Several homes and other buildings were damaged in the bombing."
The government insists it now has the upper hand in the 36-year conflict with the Tigers, who are fighting for a separate Tamil homeland in the majority Sinhalese island's north and east.
On Saturday, security forces captured the area near the Periyamadu irrigation tank -- the key source of water for residents of the rural farming area -- following clashes in the adjoining district of Mannar in the north.
Twelve Tamil rebels and two soldiers were killed in the fighting, the ministry said, adding that several soldiers were also wounded.
Three more rebels were killed in fighting in the Weli Oya region, along the northeastern side of the island.
There was no immediate word from the Tigers about the latest ground fighting.
The latest deaths raise the number of rebels killed by security forces to 4,237 since January, according to the defence ministry, which says 371 soldiers have died in combat during the same period.
The authorities do not allow media and rights groups to travel to the frontlines, making it impossible to independently verify the figures.