Sri Lankan military claims major victory, but cost great

NEW DELHI, India (AP) — Sri Lanka’s military claimed a major battlefield prize Wednesday, but reports of the staggering cost of the victory — as many as 1,300 soldiers and Tamil rebels dead — underlined how difficult it will be for either side to win the 15-year war.
The battle occurred along a strategic highway that links Colombo, the capital, to the government-held northern town of Jaffna. The military campaign, which has proceeded inch by bitter, bloody inch since May 1997, has wrested two-thirds of the highway from rebels.
Red Cross spokesman Harsha Gunawardene said rebels handed over the bodies of 600 soldiers on Wednesday, apparent casualties of the highway fighting that began Sunday.
The Sri Lankan government has imposed censorship, restricting what local and foreign correspondents can report about the war and casualties.
The Sri Lankan government under President Chandrika Kumaratunga has vowed to crush the Tigers on the battlefield. In August, she extended a state of emergency from the northern and eastern areas to the rest of the island.