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Sri Lankan Troops Kill 17 Rebels

May 2, 1998

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lankan troops ambushed and killed 17 Tamil rebels near a northern town that the government has had under siege for months, the military said today.

There were no deaths on the government side in Friday’s fighting, 150 miles north of the capital, Colombo.

Mankulam is the largest town along a key, 48-mile road that the army has been trying to capture from the rebels for nearly a year in the longest and bloodiest offensive of Sri Lanka’s 15-year-old civil war.

Heavy casualties in the campaign have exhausted both sides. The military says it has lost more than 1,000 soldiers and has killed more than 3,000 guerrillas.

The rebels are fighting for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority, who accuse the majority Sinhalese of oppression. Since 1983, the conflict has killed more than 52,000 people.

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