Weekend encounters in Sri Lanka's civil war leave 55 dead

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Sri Lankan troops killed 53 Tamil Tiger rebels in fresh offensives over the weekend, the government and military officials said Sunday.

A government soldier and a civilian died in separate weekend fighting, and 16 soldiers were wounded, military officials said.

There was no independent confirmation of the reports as the government discourages reporters from visiting the front, where Tamil separatists are fighting Sri Lankan government forces in a civil war that began in 1983.

Fourteen members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were killed Sunday in two separate attacks by government troops in the northern Jaffna peninsula, where most of the civil war is being fought, government spokesman Ariya Rubasinghe said.

Elsewhere, 39 rebels were killed in four separate encounters, Rubasinghe said. Most came as government artillery pounded rebel bunkers in the Omanathai area in the Jaffna peninsula Friday night, killing 20 members of LTTE, which is fighting to create a separate homeland for the country's minority Tamils.

The war, which has left more than 62,000 people dead, has been fueled by Tamil claims of discrimination by the country's majority Sinhalese.


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