Sri Lanka: 17 rebels dead in clashes to clear road

Sri Lankan soldiers killed 17 Tamil Tiger separatists in fighting to clear a road that would give the military access to remaining rebel territory where thousands of civilians are trapped, the Defense Ministry said. The rebels, who once controlled a de facto state in parts of the country's north and east, have retreated to a tiny slice of land that the government had earlier declared a "no-fire zone" for civilians fleeing the fighting in the island's nation's civil war. The United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 civilians are trapped in the area, which measures only 7.7 square miles, and has voiced concern for their safety. More than 2,800 civilians were able to flee the war zone on Saturday, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said. The Defense Ministry said Sunday that 17 rebels were killed and 22 wounded in offensives the day before aimed at clearing new escape routes for the civilians and a road link for the military to enter the zone. It did not say if there were military casualties.