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Fresh fighting kills 27 in SL ahead of SAARC summit

world Updated: Aug 01, 2008 15:04 IST
AFP
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Sri Lankan troops killed 25 Tamil Tiger rebels while two soldiers died in combat in the island's north, the defence ministry said on Friday, as Colombo prepared to host a South Asian summit.

Troops fought pitched battles with the guerrillas on Thursday in Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaittivu and Weli Oya and recovered arms from fleeing rebels, the ministry said.

The clashes raised the number of rebels killed by government troops since January to 5,436 while 478 soldiers have died in combat during the same period, according to a defence ministry toll.

Casualty figures cannot be verified as the ministry blocks access to journalists from visiting the frontlines.

Both sides remained locked in combat as leaders from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations began arriving in Colombo on Friday for the weekend summit.

Colombo, which believes it has the upper hand in the conflict after driving the rebels from their eastern stronghold, has sharply beefed up security in and around the capital of 650,000 residents for the eight-nation SAARC meeting.

The fighting is taking place 250 kilometres (160 miles) north of here, but there has recently been a string of deadly attacks on Colombo that the government has blamed on the rebels.

In late July, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) offered a unilateral ceasefire for the summit, but Colombo brushed off the proposal and stepped up attacks against rebel positions in the north.

The Tigers are fighting for a separate Tamil homeland in the majority Sinhalese nation.

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