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Heavy clashes in Sri Lanka's northeast jeopardize new plans for peace talks

Heavy clashes in Sri Lanka's northeast jeopardize new plans for peace talks

Heavy clashes broke out between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in three parts of Sri Lanka's volatile north and east, killing a large number of insurgents and wounding eight soldiers, the military said.
Friday's fighting, which each side denied initiating, came a day after the government said it is ready to resume stalled peace talks with the Tamil rebels later this month in Switzerland.
Nordic cease-fire monitors said the clashes put the talks into "jeopardy."
Separately, 49 Tamil Tiger rebels were killed Friday in a raid by a breakaway faction in eastern Sri Lanka, a spokesman for the breakaway group said.
The group, known as the K-faction, overran three Tamil Tiger camps in the Vaharai area of eastern Batticaloa district, killing 49 mainstream rebels, spokesman T. Thuyavan said. It was not immediately possible to verify the claim independently.
Thuyavan also said five of the splinter group's fighters died in the clashes.
In the clashes between the mainstream rebels and government forces, military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said the Tigers launched an attack on a military camp in Mankerni in Batticaloa district early Friday.
The army, supported by fighter helicopters, repulsed the rebel attack, he said.
Samarasinghe said a large number of rebel bodies were lying on the battlefield, but that exact details were unavailable.
However, the rebels accused the army of launching an offensive to grab rebel-held territory in the east.
"Sri Lanka's troops launched an operation backed by artillery and air support to gain our territory," said rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan. Samarasinghe denied the accusation.
A spokesman for the Nordic cease-fire mission, Thorfinnur Omarsson, said both sides had filed complaints, accusing the other of starting the fighting.
In Jaffna, a northern peninsula, six soldiers were wounded Friday when Tamil Tigers fired artillery toward the northern defense line, the military spokesman said.
The air force later launched airstrikes on rebel artillery and mortar positions, Samarasinghe added.
Soldiers also destroyed six Tamil Tiger boats suspected of transporting fuel off the northern coast, he said.
A round of peace talks is planned for Oct. 28 and 29 in Switzerland. The last round of peace talks, aimed at ending two decades of civil war, was held in February.
The Norway-brokered 2002 cease-fire temporarily ended Sri Lanka's civil war between the government and the Tamil Tigers, who want to carve out a separate homeland in the north and east for the country's ethnic Tamil minority, citing decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.
About 65,000 people died in the conflict before the truce.
Renewed fighting since late July has left at least another 1,000 combatants and civilians dead.
The K-faction broke away from the mainstream Tamil Tigers in 2004, alleging discrimination against eastern-based ethnic Tamils by the northern-based mainstream rebel leadership.
The Tamil Tigers accuse government forces of backing the splinter group in attacks against the mainstream group, a charge denied by both the government and the breakaway faction.
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Associated Press writer Bharatha Mallawarachi contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-09 07:55 GMT+08:00