Army: 34 Killed in Sri Lanka Fighting

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- Government troops and Tamil rebels fought scattered battles across northern Sri Lanka over two days, leaving 30 rebel fighters and four soldiers dead, the military said Monday.

Fighting between the two sides has escalated since the government pulled out of a long-ignored cease-fire with the rebels in January. The government promised swift victory over the Tamil Tigers, but many observers say the rebels are putting up far more resistance than the government expected.

It was not possible to get independent accounts of the clashes on Sunday and Monday because journalists are banned from the war zone. Both the government and the rebels often exaggerate their enemy's casualties and underreport their own.

In the fighting Monday, army troops led an offensive against a rebel bunker line in the Mannar district, killing seven Tamil Tiger fighters, the military said in a statement.

That came a day after fighting killed 10 rebel fighters in the Vavuniya district south of the Tamil Tigers' de facto state in the north, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.

Battles in the Welioya area killed six rebels and four soldiers. Six other rebels were killed in Mannar and another died in Jaffna, he said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment.

The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils who have been marginalized for decades by successive governments run by majority ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.

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