Sri Lanka
Rebels, Army clash kills 21 in Sri Lanka
Mar 21, 2007 - 9:13:45 PM

Colombo, March 21 - Fighting between army troops and Tamil rebels killed 21 dead and more than 80 injured, including civilians, in the north and eastern parts of Sri Lanka, military officials said Wednesday.

Fierce fighting broke out when rebels fired artillery and mortars at five military camps in Batticaloa district, 240 km north-east of Colombo, just before dawn Wednesday, prompting security forces to retaliate.

Eight rebel bodies were recovered, but the military claims that as many as 30 rebels were injured and the casualty figure could be more than the number of bodies recovered.

At least four soldiers were also killed and 14 injured in the battle.

The pro-rebel Tamilnet website confirmed that the rebels had mounted the attacks on the security forces in the eastern province and claimed they had inflicted damage on the army positions in the area.

Over 40 civilians also have been injured due to the shelling as some of the mortars and artillery fell on civilian-populated areas, military officials in the area said.

The fighting in the eastern province cAme as government troops were continuing their efforts to recapture more rebel-controlled areas including a jungle base located in Thoppigala in Batticaloa district.

In a separate incident in Vavuuniya, 240 km north of the capital, four suspected rebels were shot dead by the army after they came under attack by the rebels, a military spokesman said.

Five more rebels were shot dead as they attempted to infiltrate the forward defences in Muhamalai, 380 km north of the capital at dawn on Wednesday.

A military spokesman said that rebels appeared to have made simultaneous efforts to attack the security forces in the north and eastern province, but had failed in their attempts.

Fighting in the north and eastern parts of Sri Lanka has escalated during the past 15 months, claiming more than 4,000 lives.

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