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Sri Lankan troops, rebels suffer casualties in clashes
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08:16, April 09, 2009

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The military in Sri Lanka said on Wednesday that both the government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels suffered casualties in clashes between the two sides in the northern district of Mullaittivu on Tuesday.

Officials from the Media Center for National Security said several clashes erupted between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the troops on Tuesday.

The military said the LTTE "sustained heavy damage" and the troops "received minor damage" in the confrontations in the areas of Puthukkudiyiruppu, Ampalavanpokkanei and Vishvamadu, without releasing exact casualty figures on the two sides.

The military said the LTTE's armed struggle to set up a separate homeland for the minority Tamil community is coming to an end as the organization has lost all its 15,000 sq km territory except a 20-sq-km "safe zone" in the current military offensive started in 2006.

The government accuses the rebels of holding a large number of civilians as human shields in the "safe zone" at Puttumatalan area in Mullaittivu.

The actual number of civilians trapped in the area is being debated. The government argued that only 120,000 people lived there out of whom around 66,000 had already left. But international agencies said some 230,000 people had been originally trapped.

A concerned international community has pleaded with both the government and the rebels to care for the safety of civilians amid allegations that a large number of them are receiving injuries or getting killed in the crossfire.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the mid-1980s in one of the world's longest civil wars.


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