Picture: (AFP/Ishara S. Kodikara)

Sri Lankan police checks civilians during a security operation in the capital Colombo. At least 24 Tamil Tiger rebels and a soldier were killed in fresh fighting in Sri Lanka’s north as the island prepared to host a summit of South Asian leaders.

Sri Lanka fighting kills 25 as summit nears

The Sri Lankan army launched a wave of attacks against Tamil Tiger separatists in the north, sparking battles that killed 24 rebels and one soldier.

The new fighting came as officials from eight South Asian nations gathered in Colombo for a regional conference that is to culminate in a top-level summit this weekend.

The Tamil Tigers offered a cease-fire beginning last Saturday because of the conference, but the government rejected it as a ploy by the rebels to gain time to regroup after several recent battlefield losses.

A rebel attack near Colombo during the summit would be deeply embarrassing for the government, which has sealed off roads across the capital and sent 19,000 troops and soldiers onto the streets to preventany bombings.

At the same time, troops have launched a series of attacks on the rebels' de facto state in the north in recent days.

Fighting raged throughout yesterday in the Welioya and Vavuniya regions along the front lines.

Troops attacked a rebel bunker line in one battle that lasted 11 hours and killed seven rebels. The military also attacked the Kattikulam area yesterday, killing six rebels