Sri Lanka - Government Army strikes at Tamil Tiger enclaves in the north east

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Casualties are mounting in a Sri Lankan army offensive launched against the separatist Tamil Tigers militia in the northeast of the island nation. Reports say eight soldiers have been killed and 28 injured in the latest fighting.

The campaign, launched Sunday, includes navy, air and ground force advancement into Tamil Tiger held territory. Last month the town of Muttur saw heavy fighting and recession of rebel-held territory to the Sri Lankan Government. The fighting prompted international aid agencies to send emergency supplies to the estimated 500,000 residents.

"There was heavy shelling and aerial bombardment, 20 civilians were killed and 26 injured," rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan told the Associated Press. Accounts of the fighting differed from the account given by Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe of the Sri Lankan Government forces, "We have killed no civilians. I don't think any civilian lives there."

Neither of the reports can be confirmed at this time. International observers have pulled out of the conflict zone and the district is closed to outsiders. The port of Trincomalee is an important supply point for the region's 43,000 government troops.

The airstrikes and shelling have internally displaced close to 204,000 civilians.

The offensive continues even though a 2002 ceasefire is in place, from which neither side has officially withdrawn.

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