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Fighting kills 43 in Sri Lanka

Govt troops capture a Tamil Tiger rebel-held village in war-ravaged northern Sri Lanka while infantry clashes across the region kill 40 rebels and three soldiers

world Updated: Jun 28, 2008 16:13 IST

Government troops captured a Tamil Tiger rebel-held village in war-ravaged northern Sri Lanka on Saturday while infantry clashes across the region killed 40 rebels and three soldiers, the military said.

Fighting has escalated in the Indian Ocean island in recent months as government forces try to fulfill a pledge to crush the insurgents by the end of the year.

In the latest fighting, army troops took control of Parappakadattan village in Mannar district on Saturday, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.

He said that guerrillas had almost vacated the area when army troops advanced into the village, where rebels had maintained a training base and office complex.

On Friday, troops captured Andankulam town in Mannar after a battle that killed 28 rebels and one soldier, the military said. On Thursday, troops seized a key supply base in Vavuniya district that had been used to replenish the Tamil Tigers' front-line troops, it said.

Nanayakkara said that the capture of those rebel-held areas was strategically important for government troops to gain control of the rebels' northern strongholds.

Other battles Friday killed 12 rebels and one soldier in the Welioya region, while in the northern Jaffna peninsula, a soldier died in a roadside bomb blast blamed on the rebels, Nanayakkara said.

The military said that fighting over the past week has killed 220 rebels and 22 soldiers. Analysts accuse both sides of exaggerating their enemy's losses and underreporting their own casualties. Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not immediately available for comment.

It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because journalists are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place.

The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.