COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lankan troops backed by warplanes captured a town in the northwest of the island on Friday after killing 31 Tamil Tiger rebels in a battle, the military said, as it pressed on with an offensive in the region.
Three soldiers were killed and another five were missing from the fighting in Mannar district, the military said.
A pro-rebel website, www.tamilnet.com, said Tamil Tiger fighters inflicted heavy casualties on the Sri Lankan military, killing at least 30 soldiers, before retreating.
The military, which pushed out the rebels from large swathes of the east last year, has since then focused on their strongholds in the north and neighbouring areas such as Mannar.
According to military figures, 111 rebel fighters have been killed since Monday in fighting along the northern frontlines.
But there was no independent confirmation of the figures and both sides are know to inflate enemy losses while playing down their own.
“Troops captured the Adampan town area and Alankulam area today and 31 LTTE terrorists were killed in the confrontation that took place in Mannar,” said a military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.
The military said fighter jet aircrafts bombed rebel positions in support of the ground troops in Mannar.
“The Tigers had put up heavy resistance confronting the
(Sri lankan army) in its attempt to advance with the support of air attacks by the Sri Lanka Air Force and indirect fire using multi barrel rocket launchers, artillery and mortar,” the pro-rebel Tamilnet website said, quoting Tamil Tiger rebel military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan.
An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the 25-year-old civil war.
Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani