Eastern Battle

Casualties were suffered on both sides in the first major clash since a split in the guerrilla group, the pro-Tiger Tamilnet.com website said.rn

rn Forces of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were advancing on positions held by those loyal to the renegade regional commander V. Muralitharan, and there were casualties on both sides, it said.rn

rn LTTE formations crossed the Verugal river that separates the northeast district of Trincomalee and Karuna-held Batticaloa region.rn

rn “More than 300 young fighters of the Karuna group who were defending the southern side of the (Verugal) river and the interior surrendered without fight,” the Tamilnet said. rn

rn There was no immediate word from Karuna on the fighting or the casualties in the pre-dawn fighting.rn

rn However, earlier in the day, Karunas spokesman who is identified as Varadan, said the LTTEs main leadership had initiated the battle and they were offering resistance.rn

rn “They started the firing first,” Varadan told