The Terror Journal

A Journal on Terrorism and Genocide

Sri Lanka troops kill 18 LTTE rebels

Sri LankaAt least 18 Tamil Tiger rebels have been killed as Sri Lankan troops fought to take remaining guerrilla strongholds in the north-east, officials said.

The defence ministry said troops also rescued nearly 60 civilians trying to flee the fighting in Mullaitivu.

There is no confirmation by the rebels. The clashes came as international concern mounts over civilian deaths in government-designated safe zones.

The UN says both the army and the rebels may have committed war crimes.

Sri Lanka on Saturday rejected the UN allegations and vowed there would be no cease-fire in its drive to capture the shrinking rebel enclave and end the 25-year-old civil war.

A report on Friday from UN human rights chief Navi Pillay also warned that civilian casualties could reach “catastrophic” proportions if the two sides do not suspend fighting.

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But Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe, questioned charges in the report that 2,800 civilians had been killed and more than 7,000 wounded since 20 January.

“It is very, very unprofessional to rely on such unsubstantiated figures. What is dismaying to us is the figures correspond to the figures put forward by (the pro-rebel Web site) Tamilnet and LTTE front groups,” Mr Samarsinghe told a news conference, referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The UN report also said the army has repeatedly shelled inside the “no-fire” zones – an allegation Mr Samarsinghe denied.

Also on Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called President Mahinda Rajapaksa to express “deep US concern” over deteriorating conditions and increasing loss of life in the safe zones, a state department statement said.

She also condemned the rebels for using civilians as shields against government attacks and shooting civilians who try to leave.

Rebel officials could not be reached for comment. Most communication to the north has been severed, and accounts of the fighting could not be verified because independent journalists are barred from the war zone.

The LTTE has fought since 1983 for an independent state for the Tamil minority, which suffered decades of marginalisation at the hands of governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

Source: BBC News

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