A total of 1,045 Tamil Tiger rebels and troops have died in a series of offensives in the northern Jaffna peninsula over the past three months, the army has revealed.
Figures published in the state-run Daily News on Wednesday said 777 rebels were killed and 268 soldiers had died in military operations launched by the army since October.
In 10 army counter offensives, a total of 139 square kilometers (55 square miles) of territory was recaptured from rebels.
Besides suffering huge manpower losses, 246 guerrillas of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, (LTTE) were injured, the report added.
The Tigers had seized the territory in a spectacular military offensive in April 2000, when they overran a number of Sri Lankan army bases.
But the army, boosted by the acquisition of modern weapons, halted the rebel offensive and slowly regained most of the territory including the 32-kilometer (20-mile) main highway on the peninsula.
The rebels still control about 25 kilometers (15 miles) of highway up to the strategic Elephant Pass which connects the peninsula with the mainland, as well as the adjacent northern Wanni region.
Officials here said the army's strategy is to regain total control of Jaffna peninsula before attacking the rebels in their Wanni stronghold.
The offensives came despite efforts by Norway to kickstart peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, fighting for a separatist Tamil homeland.
The LTTE announced a month-long unilateral ceasefire on Christmas Day, but the government refused to join in saying a ceasefire could be agreed upon if peace talks made "meaningful progress."
The army also argued that the LTTE had announced a ceasefire because it had been weakened by the offensives and wanted time to rebuild and retrain its cadres.
Norwegian peace envoy Eric Solheim is however expected to arrive soon in Colombo for a fresh round of negotiations on peace talks.
More than 55,000 people have been killed in the two decade conflict -- COLOMBO (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)