Apr. 30 (AFP) – At least 18 rebels were killed and many more wounded when Tamil Tiger guerrillas on Sunday launched a major attack against a breakaway faction in eastern Sri Lanka, military and rebel sources said. The battle was one of the bloodiest incidents in an escalation of violence in recent weeks that has severely strained a four-year-old ceasefire between the Tigers and the government.
The main Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) pounded a base of the faction led by V. Muralitharan, better known as Colonel Karuna, in the jungles of Welikanda, a military official in the area said.
“The fighting is in an ‘uncleared’ (LTTE-controlled) area. We have not been able to go there and see for ourselves what is going on,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“What we know is what we have gathered from intercepted radio communications. They speak of 10 killed on Karuna’s side and eight on the other.”
Military officials in the area, about three kilometres (two miles) from the fighting, said they heard automatic rifle fire for about 45 minutes and also rocket-propelled grenades.
The pro-LTTE tamilnet.com website said an LTTE commando unit had launched the assault against Karuna’s Kasankul