Fierce clashes in Lanka; 33 combatants dead

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Colombo, Jan 9: At least 33 combatants were killed and over 35 wounded when advancing government troops and the Tamil Tiger rebels clashed in the north-western Mannar district, according to claims by both sides.

The Ministry of Defence said the troops backed by artillery and aerial bombardments ''forced into LTTE positions ahead of Parappakandal defences yesterday around 1630 hrs (local time), killing at least 19 terrorists including a female LTTE leader and wounding over 30 others.'' ''According to intercepted LTTE communication, an LTTE female area leader Sudarmalar and 18 terrorists were killed during the confrontations. Several LTTE bunkers were destroyed while troops overran LTTE positions ahead of Parappakandal, Mannar,'' the Defence Ministry claimed.

It also said troops have repulsed an LTTE offensive attempt towards the military established defences at North of Parappakandal a couple of hours later.

''One soldier was killed while five others sustained injuries during the confrontations. Troops are now consolidating the defences, ground sources report,'' the Defence Ministry said.

However, a pro-LTTE website quoting the LTTE sources in Mannar said at least 14 government soldiers were killed and 40 more wounded when a ground movement by the troops was ''thwarted at Mullikkulam in Mannar after three hours of stiff resistance by the LTTE.'' Independent verification on the death toll was not possible as journalists were barred from visiting the battle front.


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