Sri Lanka
Fighting continues, death toll rises to 33 in Sri Lanka
Mar 24, 2007 - 10:18:33 PM

Colombo, March 24 - Fighting continued between government troops and Tamil rebels in north-west Sri Lanka as the two-day death toll climbed to 33 with the deaths of nine more soldiers, a military spokesman said Saturday.

Fighting was around the Madu area, 300 km north of the capital where the two sides have been involved in a heavy exchange of artillery and mortars since Friday morning, a spokesman said.

Government troops Friday advanced into a rebel controlled area in the northern Wanni region in a fresh bid to push back the rebels in the area and take control of more territory. All previous offensives have been in the eastern part of the country.

The military confirmed that nine more soldiers were killed, raising the death toll of army personnel killed in action to 14, while 46 more were injured.

On Friday the military said that at least 20 rebels were killed and that the death toll was likely to rise.

But a Tamil rebel spokesman said their cadres had prevented security forces from advancing into rebel-controlled areas and they killed some 60 soldiers, a claim denied by the army.

The fresh fighting has displaced more than 10,000 civilians, with some of them fleeing into government-controlled areas and others withdrawing further into rebel-controlled areas.

Rebels claimed that the army was holding civilians as human shields as the army made a counter claim that rebels were forcing people to stay back in the areas controlled by them.

Fighting has escalated during the past 15 months, claiming more than 4,000 lives in Sri Lanka.

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