3RD LD: Battle between Sri Lanka gov't, rebels leaves 16 dead+
Fri July 14, 2006 08:49 EDT .
COLOMBO, July 14 (Kyodo) _ (EDS: UPDATING WITH MILITARY ACKNOWEDGEMENT THAT 13 SOLDIERS MISSING)
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels said Friday they killed 12 government soldiers and captured one in a fierce gun battle in which they lost four of their own fighters.
If the death toll is confirmed, the battle in the Vakeneri area of eastern Sri Lanka would be the most bloody in recent weeks in terms of lives lost.
Military officials acknowledged that 13 soldiers are missing from the incident, while the International Committee for the Red Cross said arrangements are being made to transfer the bodies of 12 soldiers on Saturday.
The rebel-linked TamilNet website quoted a rebel official as saying the battle, which lasted an hour, started when rebels came into contact with a unit of at least 100 government soldiers who had penetrated 5 kilometers inside rebel-controlled territory.
The army, on its website, said its troops were on a search and clear operation when they came under mortar and small arms fire from the rebels. It said they retaliated and managed to inflict high casualties among the ''terrorists'' with the help of reinforcements.
Besides those who went missing, it said five soldiers were injured.
Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe, a military spokesman, rejected the LTTE claim that the fighting occurred in rebel-held territory, saying Vakaneri is a no man's land. Vakaneri is located 37 km northwest of Batticaloa town in eastern Sri Lanka.
The 2002 cease-fire that halted two decades of civil war has been undermined by low-intensity warfare and violence that has claimed over 700 lives since last December.
In other violence Friday, the army said rebel snipers shot two navy sailors, killing one of them. On Thursday, two soldiers were reportedly killed in a Claymore mine attack while four rebels were killed Wednesday night in an army ambush.
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Published: Fri Jul 14 09:48:43 EDT 2006