Sri Lanka Violence Leaves 28 Rebels, 4 Soldiers Dead

Helicopter gunships hit a Tamil Tiger rebel position in northern Sri Lanka Tuesday, a day after battles across the embattled region left four soldiers and 28 guerrillas dead, the military said.

The worst of Monday's fighting took place along the northern front lines in Mannar, where 11 rebels were killed, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.

He said three soldiers on a foot patrol in the Jaffna area were killed by a bomb. Other deadly battles erupted in Vavuniya and Welioya.

The gunships attacked a rebel gathering point in Mannar on Tuesday, in support of troops fighting the rebels on the ground, said air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara.

"Pilots have confirmed that the attack was successful," he said, adding details of damage or casualties were not available.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be immediately reached for comment.

It was not possible to independently verify the military reports because journalists are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Each side commonly exaggerates its enemy's casualties while underreporting their own.

The latest fighting was part of the government's campaign to crush the Tamil Tigers and seize their northern power base.

Authorities had earlier promised to crush the militants by the end of this year, but Sri Lanka's army commander said recently it may take another year to significantly weaken the guerrillas.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.