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Sri Lanka Says 37 Killed in Clashes

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka —  Battles, roadside bombings and artillery attacks across the front lines of Sri Lanka's civil war killed 35 ethnic Tamil rebels and two soldiers, the military said Wednesday.

The combatants were killed in at least 17 different confrontations Tuesday along the front lines of the civil war in this Indian Ocean island nation, the military said in a statement.

In the worst of the fighting, five rebel fighters were killed and 11 soldiers injured during a battle in the war-torn district of Mannar that began Monday night and lasted until Tuesday morning, the military said.

Reports of violence in the main battle zone in the north have increased in recent months amid government promises to crush the rebels by the end of the year. Diplomats and other observers say, however, that the army has faced more resistance than it expected.

Each side often exaggerates the other's casualty figures while playing down its own. It was not possible to independently confirm the accounts because reporters have been barred from the war zone.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent state for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority in the north and east after decades of being marginalized by Sinhalese-dominated governments. The fighting has killed more than 70,000 people.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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