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At least 10 Tamil rebels killed in eastern Lanka

Armed men, believed to be members of the LTTE, ambushed two renegade rebel camps in eastern Sri Lanka, killing several fighters.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2007 14:55 IST

Armed men, believed to be members of the mainstream Tamil Tiger rebels, ambushed two renegade rebel camps in eastern Sri Lanka, killing several fighters, officials said on Wednesday.

The Defence Ministry blamed the mainstream Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for the attacks late Tuesday, and the three sides disagreed on the number of casualties.

The pro-rebel TamilNet said unidentified assailants killed at least 10 members of the breakaway Karuna rebel faction and wounded four more in the ambush on paramilitaries -- the word the mainstream Tamil Tigers use to describe the renegade rebels.

"Two paramilitary installations have been attacked in Valaichchenai in Batticaloa district," the pro-rebel website said, citing unidentified reports.

A spokesman for the Karuna group acknowledged that three members were killed in the attack, which it blamed on the mainstream rebels.

"We lost three of our cadres, but our other cadres chased the fleeing attackers and killed four of them," said Azad Moulana, reached on his cellular phone.

The spokesman for the mainstream rebels, Rasiah Ilanthirayan, declined to comment on the incident, but said four of their fighters were killed in the same area by the Sri Lankan military.

He spoke from the rebels' northern stronghold of Kilinochchi. The LTTE claims the Karuna rebels -- named for the renegade commander, nicknamed Karuna, who led their defection -- are helping the Sri Lankan military in its campaign against the mainstream separatists. The military denies the charge.

Sri Lankan military spokesman, Brig Prasad Samarasinghe, confirmed the attacks on the renegades, but said two Karuna members died and two were wounded.

Samarasinghe blamed the mainstream rebels for the attacks. There was no way to reconcile the conflicting death toll.

Karuna and thousands of other guerrilla fighters from eastern Sri Lanka broke away from the LTTE in 2004.

Karuna, once the rebels' top military commander who led several major successful assaults on security forces, accused the northern-based mainstream rebels of sending his eastern fighters to more battlefronts than those from the north.

Eastern Sri Lanka has become a hotbed of violence between the military and the Tamil Tigers, who have been fighting for more than 20 years for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's 3.1 million minority ethnic Tamils after decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.

Both sides claim to be adhering to a 2002 ceasefire, but violence in the north and east has escalated since late 2005. More than 3,600 people died in fighting last year.

First Published: Jan 10, 2007 14:55 IST