Sri Lanka says fighting kills 34 rebels

Associated Press / April 3, 2009
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Sri Lankan troops killed 34 Tamil Tiger separatist rebels yesterday during fierce fighting in the island's north in a drive to end a 25-year-old civil war, the military said.

Troops collected the bodies of 31 rebels after intense clashes near Puthukkudiyiruppu, the last township held by the Tamil Tigers inside a tiny, shrinking territory, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

Soldiers also recovered 50 assault rifles and communication equipment, he said.

The military also ambushed and killed three rebels who infiltrated Viswamadu, a village previously captured by government forces, the military said in a statement.

The Tigers - who once commanded a de facto state across a large swath of the island's north and east - have been pushed into a small sliver of coastal land measuring just 8.4 square miles on the northeastern coast.

The military's account of the battles cannot be verified because independent journalists are barred from the war zone.

Although there has been heavy fighting in the same area for weeks, the government says it is close to crushing the rebels, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.