sri lanka 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Government forces and Tamil Tiger separatists fought pitched battles in the rain and mud in a ring of villages outside the rebel administrative capital in northern Sri Lanka, the military said Tuesday.
"Heavy clashes" broke out throughout the day Monday in the village of Pallawarayankatu near rebel headquarters in Kilinochchi, the military said in a statement. Separate fighting erupted in the villages of Akkrayankulam and Kokkavil.
The military did not provide casualty details in line with a new government policy, but said troops inflicted "heavy losses" on the rebels.
Fighting also broke out Monday in nearby Mullaitivu district, the military said.
The government has vowed to destroy the rebel group by the end of the year and has pushed deep into the rebels' de facto state in the north in recent months. Several weeks ago, the military said it was just outside Kilinochchi and was poised to seize the town from the rebels.
But monsoon rains, which began more than a week ago and are expected to last for months, have made the fighting more difficult and bogged down many of the military's vehicles, said a military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
It is not possible to obtain independent accounts of clashes because most journalists are barred from the war zone. Rebel spokesmen could not be reached for comment because their communication lines have been severed.
Meanwhile, police said unidentified gunmen fatally shot four members of a pro-government militia in the volatile east Monday night.
The shooting took place at a political office of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal near the town of Batticaloa, said police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekara.
The militia broke away from the Tamil Tigers and has formed an alliance with the government.
Gunasekara said another five militia members were missing and police were investigating who was behind the attack.
The group was formed in 2004 when a former rebel commander defected from the Tamil Tigers with thousands of his men. The group helped the government push the rebels out of the east last year.
The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils who have suffered marginalization at the hands of successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. The conflict has killed more than 70,000 people.