31 rebels killed in SL battle
Civilians are continuing to flee Sri Lanka's war zone as security forces step up an offensive against Tamil Tigers, with another 31 rebels killed, the defence ministry said yesterday.
At least 31 Tamil Tiger guerrillas were killed and many more reported wounded during fresh clashes with troops in Sri Lanka's north-eastern Mullaitivu district, the defence ministry said Thursday.
The ministry said that 23 rebels were killed and as many reported injured Wednesday as troops of the 58 Division inching towards the last LTTE strongholds 'ran into identified LTTE resistance positions' located in general area northeast of Puthukkudiyiruppu in Mullaitivu.
Eleven more cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were reportedly shot dead in the same area by the troops operating in the forward defence locations. Bodies of 12 guerrillas, as many T-56 assault riffles and an I-com set were recovered during the search operations, the defence ministry report said.
Separately, 55 Division troops deployed in area south of Chalai, a coastal village in Mullaitivu, also killed eight more rebels Wednesday.
According the military, the LTTE which once controlled a major portion of the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation, have now been boxed into a mere 28 sq km land stretch in Mullaitivu, facing an unprecedented military thrust from various directions.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that the number of civilians fleeing the rebel-held areas was on the rise and over 45,500 internally displaced people have entered the government-held areas since the beginning of 2009.
Earlier about 1,000 men, women and children left the area still under the control of the rebels on Wednesday to seek shelter with government forces, the ministry said.
It said 650 people had escaped by boat while the others walked through the jungle to reach troops in the coastal district of Mullaittivu where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrillas have been cornered.
"These civilians have revealed the continuation of forcible child recruitment by the LTTE for battle purposes and brutal killings of individuals and families who defy their orders," the ministry said.
Sri Lanka's government says nearly 40,000 people have left the conflict zone and sought shelter in military-held areas.
The country's military accuses the Tigers of using the civilians as cover, but the UN has said both sides could be guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The defence ministry said government troops killed another 31 Tiger rebels in separate clashes in Mullaittivu district on Wednesday.
Independent verification of the casualty figures is impossible as most journalists, aid workers and international observers are prevented from entering the conflict zone.