22 killed in latest Sri Lanka clashes
At least 21 Tamil Tiger rebels and a Sri Lankan government soldier have been killed in the latest clashes in the island's north, the defence ministry said yesterday.
The fighting occurred Saturday.
The figures raise to 5,496 the number of rebels killed by troops since January, while 496 soldiers have died in action over the same period, according to a tally of the defence ministry's daily claims.
There was no comment from the rebels. Casualty claims from either side cannot be verified since the ministry blocks journalists from visiting the front lines.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had offered a unilateral ceasefire to coincide with a two-day South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) leaders' summit that began in Colombo on Saturday.
The government, however, brushed off the offer and has stepped up attacks against rebel positions in the north.
The Tigers have been fighting for a separate Tamil homeland in the majority Sinhalese nation since 1972.
Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said Sunday that his government does not believe that military force would resolve Sri Lanka's decades-old conflict.
The government needs to work toward a political solution to the conflict that guarantees respect for the rights of all people on this Indian Ocean island nation, Boucher said.
Leaders and officials from eight South Asian nations are in Colombo for an annual summit at which they are expected to approve accords on fighting terrorism, including freezing funds used for attacks. The two-day South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation meeting concludes Sunday.