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12 killed as rebels attack army camps: Lankan Army

By Staff
Google Oneindia News

Colombo, Mar 21: Tamil Tiger rebels attacked five army camps in Sri Lanka's east before dawn today, the military said, sparking fierce clashes that killed 12 people and wounded dozens.

The multiple assault in the eastern district of Batticaloa, where an estimated 155,000 war refugees are staying in rudimentary camps or in homes with host families, comes as the military seeks to drive the rebels from territory they control.

''They have come and attacked five camps, firing mortars and artillery. We have retaliated and found eight bodies of dead cadres as well as munitions,'' said military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe.

''There are four army dead, as well as three seriously injured from mortars,'' he added, saying 14 troops and 11 civilians had suffered minor shrapnel injuries and that troops had in turn captured a major Tiger camp.

Samarasinghe said he believed the Tigers launched the attack to deflect pressure from a swathe of jungle called Toppigala, southwest of Batticaloa town, where the rebels retreated after the fall of a key eastern stronghold in January and are now surrounded.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were not immediately available for comment.

Today's clash comes days after the military said air force jets bombed and destroyed a northeastern Tamil Tiger naval base and after the navy sank two large ships off the east coast it said were transporting arms for the Tigers, as well as four smaller rebel vessels.

The military has captured about 600 square kilometres (230 square miles) of territory from the Tigers in recent months, but analysts say while the rebels have faced a series of setbacks, there is no clear winner on the horizon.

The government has vowed to wipe out the Tigers militarily, the rebels have warned of a bloodbath and foes have repeatedly ignored calls from the international community to halt a conflict that has killed around 68,000 people since 1983 --including about 4,000 in the past 15 months.


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