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UPDATED: 14:06, January 25, 2007
Sri Lanka's war-displaced civilians to be resettled
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Civilians displaced due to fierce battles between Tamil Tiger rebels and government troops in eastern Sri Lanka will be re-settled in their original places of habitat, state officials said Thursday.

A large number of civilians from both the majority Sinhala community and the minority Tamil community were displaced since December last year in the restive Eastern Province.

Sirimevan Dharmasena, the state administrative official at Kantalai, 218 km east of the capital, said that Sinhalese civilians have now begun leaving Kantalai after spending over two months in makeshift refugee camps.

Over 3,000 civilians were housed in Kantalai from the neighboring villages of Somapura, Sirimangalapura, Serupura and Mahindapura in the multi-ethnic district.

Regular clashes erupted between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels and government troops in the eastern port district of Trincomalee since early December.

Both sides exchanged heavy artillery and mortar fire with rebels firing from Vakarai, the area under their control. But government troops finally captured Vakarai last Friday after LTTE rebels fled their eastern stronghold with the advancement of the troops.

Some 41,000 Tamil civilians were displaced in the areas of Vakarai, Verugal and Kathiraveli held by the Tigers until last week.

"The government is providing transport to the returning civilians. About 800 of them were sent back yesterday (Wednesday), " Dharmasena said.

Influx of the internally displaced into Kantalai first happened when some 25,000 civilians fled Muttur, a town south of the strategic Trincomalee harbor when the clashes took place early August.

The government said the military action in the east was to destroy the LTTE's long range gun capability from Vakarai.

It is also a part of the government's overall objective of flushing out the Tigers from the Eastern Province.

The clashes erupted despite international appeals on both sides to return to the negotiating table to further the stalled Norwegian backed process of face to face talks.

Source: Xinhua

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