NEW YORK TIMES 29.04.2001

Kampe i Sri Lanka, uenighed om antal ofre

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, April 28 (AP) Tamil Tiger guerrillas said they had inflicted "a humiliating military debacle" on government troops today, driving them out of newly captured territory in a battle that left hundreds dead.

A Defense Ministry statement confirmed that its troops had pulled back to their original positions east of Jaffna city, in the face of heavy rebel shelling and mortar fire.

The government said three days of fighting had left 157 soldiers dead and 860 wounded. The Defense Ministry said 190 rebels had been killed and more than 400 wounded.

But a rebel statement from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam said 75 guerrillas had died. It put the government losses at more than 400 dead and 2,000 wounded.

The battle was part of a government offensive after the rebels ended a four-month-old cease-fire on Tuesday. On Thursday, the military said it had captured three square miles of territory and driven the rebels south toward the strategic Elephant Pass.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for an independent Tamil homeland, in the north and east, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.