Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka forces bomb rebel "leaders' gathering"

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COLOMBO, April 26 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's air force bombed a gathering of Tamil Tiger leaders in the rebel-held north on Thursday, two days after the rebels staged their second-ever aerial attack, a military spokesman said.

"We took one target today, it was an LTTE leaders' gathering east of Kilinochchi," said air force spokesman Ajantha de Silva, referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The bombing took place a day after intense battles in the northwestern district of Mannar, which the military said killed 21 tamil Tiger rebels and 2 government soldiers.

The Tigers said they sustained no casualties, but that the government lost 10 soldiers and some 50 were wounded.

Over the past 16 months, Sri Lanka has slipped deeper into a civil war that has claimed some 68,000 lives since 1983 -- including more than 4,000 since late 2005. The intensified violence has left a 2002 ceasefire in tatters.

The Tamil Tigers, who are fighting for independence in the north and east of the island, said air force jets dropped bombs in a civilian area near a school and denied that any rebel leaders were killed or injured.

"We were not present in this area for last six months and none of us were there," Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan, a rebel military spokesman, said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

One person was injured in the air strike, he said.

The pro-rebel Web site Tamilnet.com said three air force planes released around 12 bombs, which landed some 200 metres (660 feet) from a school, and a house was destroyed in the attack. No civilian casualties were reported.

There was no way to independently verify the claims.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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