M A I N   N E W S

Fresh clashes between LTTE factions

Colombo, April 10
Sri Lanka’s east remained volatile today with unconfirmed reports of fresh clashes between rival Tamil Tiger factions, a day after the worst fighting since a two-year truce halted the island’s civil war.

Officials said the death toll in yesterday’s violence could be triple. Thousands of frightened civilians were holed up in schools. The clashes, the government said, were a violation of the February, 2002, ceasefire.

“Fighting began again a short while ago about 16 km north of Valaichchenai,” said Agnes Bragadottir, spokeswoman for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, referring to a town in the eastern district of Batticaloa, about 220 km east of Colombo.

But an army official in Valaichchenai said he could not confirm the report.

“We can’t give a strong no, but we don’t hear any firing or see anything unusual,” he said.

Military spokesman Colonel Sumedha Perera said the area had been calm overnight, but that thousands of civilians had crossed into government-controlled areas, including about 350 children under five years of age.

Reports on Friday said eight fighters and an ambulance driver had died in the clashes, but a spokesman for breakaway eastern commander Karuna said there were 10 dead on their side and officials said the main Tiger group could have lost 15 to 20 lives.

Karuna — the nom de guerre for eastern rebel commander V. Muralitharan — broke from the Tigers in early March with about 6,000 of their 15,000 troops.

“That party launched the attack,” Karuna’s spokesman, Varathan, said referring to the northern-based Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“We have recovered 10 dead bodies, but we have no idea of the casualties on their side. We are re-organising our teams,” he said.

Military sources said Karuna’s group had retreated south of a major east-west road controlled by the government, leaving the northern troops on the other side — a worry for the army, which does not want to get caught up in the conflict.

The main LTTE group does not take its wounded to hospitals in government areas, so officials said there was no firm estimate as to the number of casualties. — Reuters


Lankan Cabinet sworn in

Colombo, April 10
President Chandrika Kumaratunga today formed a Cabinet of 31, but the swearing in was marred by a boycott of the ceremony by her main coalition partner, the Marxist JVP. — PTI

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