A roadside bomb blast and clashes between soldiers and Tamil Tiger guerrillas across Sri Lanka’s volatile north have killed 29 people, the country’s military said today.
A bus with soldiers was hit by a bomb planted by the rebels last night in the northern Jaffna peninsula, killing two soldiers and wounding seven others, an official at the defence ministry’s information centre said.
Hours earlier, six Tamil Tigers and three soldiers were killed in a clash in the Vavuniya district south of Jaffna, and eight guerrillas were killed in two separate battles reported there, the official said on condition of anonymity, citing government policy.
Also last night, the military reported that they killed 10 guerrillas who tried to attack a defence line in Muhamalai, in Jaffna district.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment.
Fighting has escalated in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province in recent weeks, with the military capturing a key coastal territory that served as a rebel supply point.
In July, the government celebrated taking full control of the Eastern Province from Tamil Tigers after 13 years.
The Tigers, who want to carve out an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils in the island’s north and east, are still holding a vast area in the north where they run a de facto state.
Sri Lanka’s civil war flared up in 1983, and witnessed a brief lull after a Norwegian-brokered cease-fire in 2002. A new wave of fighting, however, including assassinations and airstrikes over the past 22 months, has killed more than 5,000 people.
The two sides continue to violate the ceasefire, which exists only on paper, but neither is willing to officially withdraw from the agreement, fearing international isolation.