Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan army, LTTE clash, 44 killed
Mar 24, 2007 - 10:28:09 PM

Colombo, March 24 - At least 44 people including soldiers, Tamil Tiger rebels and civilians have been killed in clashes in Sri Lanka's trouble-torn north and east since Friday, defence officials here said Saturday.

Officials said 31 members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - were killed in the exchange of mortar and artillery fire with the troops in the eastern Batticaloa district and the northern Mannar district.

Troops in the northern Jaffna district's Muhamalai forward defence lines shot dead an LTTE member Saturday morning at 8 a.m. - while at 10.40 a.m. - an LTTE suicide wing member was shot dead by the troops in the Jaffna city.

Military sources said that in addition to the nine soldiers who were killed Friday, a soldier perished in Jaffna when a human bomb blewhimself up.

Prasad Samarasinghe, the military spokesman, said that a seven-year-old child was killed Saturday at Chenkaladi in Batticaloa district when the rebels fired mortars from the nearby Thoppigala area.

Samarasinghe stressed that the troops will continue their operation to free civilians from rebel control.

Meanwhile, International Committee of the Red Cross - officials said that they had withdrawn from the government entry-exit point at Omanthai on the main A9 highway in the northern Vavuniya district in view of the heavy exchange of fire between the troops and the rebels.

They said they would return only after receipt of security guarantees from both sides.

The recent clashes follow the escalation of violence, which began at the end of 2005 endangering the Norwegian backed ceasefire and the process of direct negotiations.

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