Sri Lanka troops kill three rebels in raid

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger guerrillas on Tuesday said three of their men were killed and five wounded when government troops launched an attack on a rebel sentry point in the island’s restive east.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said heavily armed troops attacked their Kattumurivu sentry point in the district of Batticaloa on Tuesday morning.

“LTTE officials alleged that the raid was carried out by a heavily armed group of Sri Lanka army soldiers and said that the attackers retreated to the Sri Lanka army garrison in Singapura,” the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com said.

The defence ministry denied government forces were involved in the attack inside rebel-held territory, about 300km east of Columbo by road.

“This has nothing to do with us, but we too have heard that there had been a clash between the LTTE and their [breakaway] Karuna faction,” defence ministry spokesperson Daya Ratnayake said.

He said residents inside the rebel-held area where the gun battle took place had said about “six or seven” Tigers were killed in the clash.

“We have no way of knowing the exact casualties because it happened in an area under their control,” Ratnayake said.

“They try to shift the blame to us because they are not able to sort out the Karuna group,” he said, referring to a breakaway Tiger faction.

The latest incident came a day after the Tigers allegedly killed two government soldiers in separate incidents in the same district.

Tension has been rising in eastern Sri Lanka since a split in the LTTE in March last year.

The government has also accused the LTTE of killing hundreds of rivals and intelligence operatives despite a truce in place since February 2002.

The guerrillas for their part have accused the government of supporting their rivals.

More than 60 000 people were killed in the island’s drawn out ethnic conflict between 1972 and 2002. - AFP

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