33 combatants killed in Lanka's fierce clashes

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Colombo, Jan 21: At least 33 combatants were killed and over 30 wounded when fierce clashes erupted between the advancing Sri Lankan government troops and the fighting formations of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the northern Jaffna and Wanni district, the Defence Ministry said.

It claimed that the troops launched a pre-dawn ''multi-pronged surprise assault at LTTE positions ahead of Nagarkovil defences'' today, killing at least 15 LTTE cadres and 30 others in the northern Jaffna peninsula.

''The advancing troops have destroyed 24 LTTE bunker defences, security sources said. Four LTTE bunkers were destroyed ahead of Nagarkovil FDLs, while 12 and 8 other bunkers were destroyed at Muhamalai and Kilali fronts respectively,'' the Defence Ministry said.

It said only two government soldiers were killed and nine others wounded during the hour-long confrontation.

In a similar incident in the Wanni battlefront, at least 16 LTTE cadres were killed yesterday. According to the Defence Ministry, a large haul of weapons and five LTTE cadres' bodies were recovered by the military during the search operation.

However, a pro-rebel website claimed that the LTTE cadres have thwarted several attempts by the government troops backed by heavy artillery and multi-barrel-rocket bombardment yesterday and today in the Jaffna and Wanni regions.

Pro-LTTE puthinam.com website claimed the pre-dawn three-pronged bid by the Sri Lankan troops were defeated after a 45-minute long fierce counter attack by the rebels.

Commenting on the clashes with the troops in the Wanni yesterday, the website claimed that at least 10 government soldiers were killed and 25 more wounded in the counter attack in Palaikkuli in Mannar area.

Independent verification on the death toll is not possible as journalists are barred from visiting the battle front.

UNI

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