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DATE=1/8/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-243932 TITLE=LANKA/REBELS (L-ONLY) BYLINE=VANDANA CHOPRA DATELINE=COLOMBO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: AT LEAST 18 TAMIL TIGER REBELS HAVE BEEN KILLED IN FRESH CONFRONTATIONS IN SRI LANKA'S NORTH. VANDANA CHOPRA HAS THE DETAILS FROM COLOMBO. TEXT: DEFENSE MINISTRY STATEMENT SAYS TROOPS RECOVERED A LARGE AMOUNT OF ARMS AND AMMUNITION AFTER FIERCE FIGHTING AROUND THE NORTHERN TOWN OF ODDUSUDAN, CAPTURED BY THE MILITARY IN DECEMBER. IN A SEPARATE INCIDENT, NAVY OFFICIALS SAY A NAVAL PATROL DETECTED SIX REBEL BOATS AND CONFRONTED THEM NEAR THE EASTERN PORT CITY OF TRINCOMALEE. /// OPT /// TEN REBELS WERE KILLED OR WOUNDED AND TWO NAVAL GUNBOATS SLIGHTLY DAMAGED IN THE CONFRONTATION. /// END OPT /// THERE HAS BEEN NO COMMENT FROM TAMIL TIGER REBELS ON THE LATEST ATTACK BY SECURITY FORCES. THE MILITARY LATE LAST YEAR CALLED OFF ONE OF ITS BLOODIEST CAMPAIGNS IN THE 15-YEAR-OLD ETHNIC WAR AFTER THOUSANDS OF REBELS AND SOLDIERS WERE KILLED IN FIERCE FIGHTING . THE OPERATION THAT WAS LAUNCHED IN MAY 1997 CAPTURED A KEY NORTHERN HIGHWAY AND LASTED FOR NEARLY 18 MONTHS. SINCE THEN THE MILITARY HAS LAUNCHED SEVERAL SMALLER OPERATIONS TO RECLAIM TERRITORY IN THE NORTHERN WANNI REGION. INDEPENDENT CONFIRMATION OF EVENTS IS NOT POSSIBLE AS JOURNALISTS ARE NOT ALLOWED IN THE WAR TORN AREAS. TAMIL TIGER SEPARATISTS ARE WAGING A WAR FOR A SEPARATE HOMELAND FOR THE MINORITY TAMIL COMMUNITY IN SRI LANKA'S NORTH AND EAST SINCE 1983. (SIGNED) NEB/VC/GE 08-Jan-99 7:57 AM EST (1257 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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