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Sri Lanka: Air force destroys 3 rebel boats

world Updated: Feb 16, 2009 08:34 IST

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Sri Lankan soldiers fought a series of fierce battles with separatist Tamil Tigers, advancing further into the insurgents' shrinking territory, as fighter jets destroyed three rebel boats, the military said on Sunday.

Government forces have won a string of major victories against the insurgents in recent months, capturing their administrative capital of Kilinochchi and seizing their main bases in the north. The government says it is on the verge of crushing the rebel group which is cornered into a 58-square mile (93-square kilometer) strip of northern coastal land in Mullaittivu and ending the Indian Ocean island nation's 25-year-old civil war. Air force jets bombed and destroyed three rebel boats Sunday off the Mullaittivu coast, air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said. He did not provide details of casualties. Army troops "launched a strong attack" Saturday on rebels in the village of Waduwankal in Mullaittivu, the military said. They later found the bodies of two rebels and a large haul of weapons and ammunition, it said in a statement.

Government troops also fought separate battles Saturday in the villages of Chalai, Kuppilankulam and Puthukkudiyiruppu in Mullaittivu, it said.

The military did not provide details of casualties and it was not possible to contact Tamil Tiger spokesmen as communication to rebel-held areas has largely been severed.

The latest fighting comes as aid agencies have expressed concern for the 200,000 civilians they estimate are trapped in the war zone. The government says the figure is about half that number. The government has accused the Tigers of holding scores of people as human shields and killing civilians who want to escape. The rebels have denied the allegations.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Saturday that it is negotiating with the government and rebels to allow the sick and wounded in the war zone to travel to hospitals in government territory.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent state for minority Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by successive governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.