New front opens in Sri Lanka after big military losses

VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka, Oct 13, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military and the Tamil rebels opened a new front in the east after a fierce battle in the north killed 130 soldiers, casting a shadow over peace talks later this month. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the three-decades-old conflict. Troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) blamed each other for the new flareup in the eastern district of Ampara, which followed heavy fighting on the Jaffna peninsula on Wednesday.

“LTTE terrorists launched artillery and mortar shells towards the police Special Task Force (STF) defences,” at Kandjikudiaru in Ampara, the defence ministry said.

“The Liberation Tigers fighters were engaged in defensive clashes with the STF troopers, according to the Tiger political chief of Ampara district,” the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website said.

There were no reports of casualties in the overnight artillery exchanges which began late Thursday.

The LTTE had Thursday handed over 74 bodies of government soldiers killed in the Jaffna battle.

Another soldier’s body was returned Friday, raising the death toll among troops to 130.

The army casualties in Wednesday’s battle were the worst suffered by troops in a singl