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UPDATED: 15:22, November 18, 2006
19 killed in clashes in northern Sri Lanka
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At least four soldiers and 15 Tiger rebels were killed in separate clashes in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka on Saturday, defense officials said.

Four soldiers were killed at around 9:30 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels detonated a claymore mine targeting troops at Thandikulam in Vavuniya, 255 km north of here, the police said.

The claymore mine hitting the Army truck also injured four soldiers and 15 civilians. The civilians were admitted to the Vavuniya hospital, the police added.

In an early morning clash off the coast of Pesalai, Mannar in the north, the Navy said at least 15 LTTE sea wing members had perished.

Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe, the military spokesman, said that the Navy had engaged the rebel boats having observed a suspicious movement. At least three rebel boats were destroyed with 15 Tiger members on board in the sea clash.

However the rebel sources said that at least one Naval boat was completely destroyed and three more were damaged in the clash which was triggered off when the Navy attacked rebel boats indulging in a training exercise. Rebels suffered no casualties, sources said.

The LTTE sea Tigers and the Navy have been engaging in frequent heavy battles in the northern seas ever since the escalation of violence which began almost a year ago.

Over 3500 people had been killed in the clashes up to the end of October, the military announced early this month.

The international community has urged the two sides to stop violence and re-enter the talks process backed by the Norwegian peace facilitators.

A round of face to face talks between the two sides failed at the end of last month in Geneva, Switzerland over the closure of the main A9 highway to the north.

Source: Xinhua

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