Heavy fighting in Sri Lanka kills 12

COLOMBO, March 21, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops and Tiger rebels fought a pitched battle in the island’s restive east Wednesday, killing at least 12 from both sides and wounding more than 30, military officials said. The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launched a pre-dawn mortar attack on an army camp at Sittandy in the district of Batticaloa, killing four soldiers and wounding about 30, a local military official said.

“Troops retaliated in kind and we have captured the bodies of eight Tigers,” a military official in the area said by telephone. He said more than a dozen civilians in the neighbourhood had also been wounded.

The LTTE said in a statement that eight civilians had gone missing in the district of Batticaloa on Tuesday, but gave no details of the latest fighting in the east.

More than 4,000 people have been killed in a new wave of fighting since December 2005 between government troops and rebels fighting for an independent homeland for the Tamil minority.

The fighting comes despite a truce that has been in place, at least on paper, since February 2002.

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