Archive for March 27th, 2008

Two policemen escorting a Japanese aid worker died in a roadside blast on Wednesday, while fighting in the island’s north killed 19 rebels, one soldier and three civilians, the government said.

The aid worker, visiting an irrigation project in the eastern district of Batticaloa, narrowly escaped the mine attack, but the officers providing security died, the Japanese embassy here said.

“Our national is safe, but we are saddened that two Sri Lankan policemen died,” an official said.

The attack also injured five people, including a civilian and two elite police commandos, the defence ministry said, blaming the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The government had earlier held elections in Batticaloa, after ejecting the rebels last year.

Meanwhile, three civilians died and three others were injured in crossfire between the LTTE and security forces in the north, the military said.

The six were part of a group of eight fishermen belonging to the majority Sinhalese community who were abducted by rebels a year earlier, the government said.

Sri Lankan warplanes on Wednesday bombed two suspected rebel targets in the north, the ministry said.

Russian built Mi24 helicopter gunships provided air cover for troops in northern Mannar, while fighter jets later pounded a building used by rebels to build boats in the guerrilla-controlled Kilinochchi area.

“Pilots have confirmed the targets were accurately hit,” the statement said.

Other fighting across the war-ravaged northern district killed at least one soldier and 19 rebels on Tuesday, the defence ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from the LTTE, who have been fighting to carve out an independent state for minority Tamils in the north and east of the majority Sinhalese island since 1972.

Security forces have killed at least 2,375 rebels since January, while some 137 soldiers have died, according to the ministry.

Casualty figures cannot be independently verified because journalists and rights groups are not allowed access to the embattled areas.

Fighting has escalated since January, when Colombo formally pulled out of a six-year Norwegian-arranged truce with the Tigers.

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