Lanka fighting kills 8

Colombo, November 5:

Government troops attacked Tamil Tiger separatists along the front lines in northern Sri Lanka, killing seven rebels, while one soldier was killed in a separate mortar attack, the military said today.

The attacks came as the Tamil Tigers prepared today to bury their political leader, SP Tamilselvan, who was killed on Friday in an airstrike on a rebel communications center. The killing was hailed by the government as a major victory in its more than two-decade-old war with the rebels.

The Sri Lankan government, which controls access to the rebels’ de facto state, denied journalists permission to cover the funeral and the two-day procession of his body across rebel-held territory that preceded it.

Sri Lankan officials said they did not know Tamilselvan was in the compound at the time of the airstrike, but added that he was a legitimate target. “He was a terrorist, and there is no question about it,” government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake said such attacks would continue. “Our security forces are targeting the hiding places and safehouses of terrorist leaders to deal a mortal blow to the Tigers,” he was quoting as saying in the government-owned Daily News today. “They will not stop the relentless pursuit of terrorists.” The government is open to negotiations with the rebels, but will not agree to a new cease-fire, he said.

In new fighting, troops destroyed a rebel bunker and killed three female insurgents yesterday in the Thampane area along the southern frontier of the Tamil Tigers’ de facto state in northern Sri Lanka, the military said today.