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Eight dead in Govt-LTTE clash

The latest incidents come at a time when government shelling has driven tens of thousands of civilians in Batticaloa from their homes.

world Updated: Mar 20, 2007 11:50 IST

Government troops killed six LTTE rebels and suffered two fatalities in two clashes in volatile eastern Sri Lanka, the military said on Monday.

Sri Lankan commandos on foot patrol gunned down four Tamil Tiger rebels in Wellaweli, in eastern Batticaloa on Monday, military spokesman Brig Prasad Samarasinghe said.

In a separate incident in the same district, soldiers killed two rebels and 12 soldiers were wounded, he said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan had different casualty figures, saying three soldiers and one of their fighters were killed during the second incident, which took place on Sunday.

He was not available to comment on Monday's incident.

The rebels are fighting to create a separate homeland in Sri Lanka's north and northeast for minority ethnic Tamils.

A Norway-brokered ceasefire signed in 2002 mostly stopped two decades of violence, but fighting flared in 2005 after a new government was elected on a platform of getting tough with the insurgents.

At least 4,000 people have since been killed, although neither side has officially withdrawn from the truce.

On Sunday, Sri Lanka said its navy sank two ships believed to be ferrying arms and ammunition to the rebels.

But the rebel spokesman, speaking by phone from the rebel headquarters in Kilinochchi, declined to either conform or deny the account.

"I am awaiting reports from our field commanders," he said.

The latest incidents come at a time when government shelling has driven tens of thousands of civilians in Batticaloa from their homes as it tries to gain control over countryside long used as a base for rebels trying to push the military out of territory in the north and east.