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LTTE begins factional fighting: Red alert declared

Rival factions of LTTE exchanged heavy gunfire in Lanka in the first major clash since split in the rebel movement.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Colombo
UPDATED ON APR 09, 2004 05:25 PM IST

Rival factions of LTTE on Friday exchanged heavy gunfire in north-eastern Sri Lanka in the first major clash since the split in the rebel movement, forcing the Government to declare a red-alert, officials said.

Cadres of the main Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and men controlled by a renegade commander fired mortars and small arms fire for nearly two hours across the Verugal river, military officials said.

"There are no signs of casualties brought to government-controlled hospitals on either side at the moment," a military official said. "But it looks like both suffered casualties."

Tiger commander for the eastern districts of Batticaloa and Amparai, V Muralitharan, broke away from the leadership of LTTE on March 3 sparking fears of a factional war.

Both sides had up to 1,000 fighters each deployed along the banks of the Verugal, which marks the border between north-eastern port districts of Trincomalee and Batticaloa.

Karuna had accused the main LTTE leadership of sending intelligence operatives to the region to start a clash.

There was no immediate comment from either of the rebel factions on Friday, but Government sources said they went on a red alert fearing consequences.

"The military and the police have sounded a red alert after the heavy overnight exchange of fire by the Tigers," an official said.

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