Gulf News

Tigers dispute Colombo claims on rebel deaths

Mortar attack rocks north on New Year’s eve

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Sri Lanka’s military killed at least 20 Tamil Tiger rebels after a mortar attack in the north of the island that killed one soldier, a military spokesman said yesterday on the eve of traditiona­l New Year festivitie­s.

The Tigers denied any losses in the battle in Vavuniya district on Tuesday and instead said they had killed 10 government soldiers in a separate clash in the same region.

Independen­t state

The fighting extended a rash of near daily battles between the government and the rebels, who are struggling to establish an independen­t state in the north and east of the country for ethnic minority Tamils.

“There was mortar f ire to the forward defence line in [the north], which killed one soldier and wounded four,” said Lieutenant Colonel Upali Rajapakse, a spokesman for the media centre for national security.

“We have retaliated and their communicat­ions prove at least 20 killed.”

The shelling led the military to close a checkpoint between government-controlled and rebel-held areas, and forced at least 41 people to flee, adding to the tens of thousands of people already displaced by the fighting.

“The Omantai entry and exit point is closed due to LTTE mortar fire,” said military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasing­he.

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