Red Cross worker and 11 militants killed in Sri Lanka

A local Red Cross worker was abducted from his home in Jaffna peninsula and was found dead two days later, as Sri Lankan troops killed 11 militants in latest battles.

At least 30 humanitarian workers have been killed since early 2006, when fighting between the government and Tamil rebels flared, according to the United Nations. The worst incident was the still unsolved execution-style killing of 17 Action Against Hunger workers in eastern Sri Lanka last year, the AP reports.

On Friday, unidentified gunmen abducted Sooriyakanthy Thavarajah, a 40-year-old Sri Lankan Red Cross volunteer, from his home in the Jaffna peninsula as his family looked on, according to the Red Cross. His body was discovered Sunday, the Red Cross said.

Jaffna, a government-controlled area just north of rebel-held territory, is plagued by abductions, killings and disappearances.

Thavarajah, the third Red Cross worker killed this year, had been chairman of his local branch for the past three years and received a 2005 award as "best volunteer" from the group for his work during the Indian Ocean tsunami.

"We are shocked by another senseless and brutal murder of one of our volunteers," Jagath Abeysinghe, president of the Sri Lankan Red Cross, said Monday. The group demanded an investigation into the slaying.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said he was unaware of the incident.

Violence has escalated in the north since a 2002 cease-fire between the Tamil Tigers and the government broke down two years ago. The rebels have fought since 1983 for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils after a history of discrimination by governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

Fighting along the front lines surrounding the rebel's de facto state in the north has intensified in recent weeks as government officials called for a new offensive to destroy the rebels.

In the latest fighting, the military said it launched attacks throughout Monday against Tamil Tiger fighters along the front lines south of rebel territory.

In one fight in the Mannar district, troops attacked the guerrillas about 9:30 a.m., killing five, the military said in a statement. A sixth rebel was killed in a nearby battle in the afternoon, the military said.

Another five rebels were killed in a battle about 11:30 a.m. in the Vavuniya district, the military said.

The military also announced Monday that it had killed 20 rebels in fighting the day before.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said he had no specific details on the fighting, but said the government often lied about rebel casualties.

Each side routinely exaggerates the other's casualties and plays down its own. Independent accounts of clashes are usually unobtainable because journalists are barred from the area.

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