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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 17:53 GMT
Tamil Tiger attacks in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan soldier stands guard
The conflict has raged for nearly two decades
At least 25 people are reported to have died in clashes between Tamil Tiger rebels and government troops in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

The rebels carried out two simultaneous raids on police and army positions, in the first major attack since Sri Lanka's new prime minister Ranil Wickramasinghe was sworn in.

It was very intense fighting involving mortars

Brigadier Sanath Karunaratne
A military spokesman told the BBC guerrillas from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attacked the Pahala Toppur army base in the district of Trincomalee, 230 kilometres (142 miles) north-east of the capital Colombo, killing three soldiers and wounding 12 others. He said eight rebels were killed.

At about the same time, rebels attacked a police station in Valachchenai in the neighbouring district of Batticaloa.

The military spokesman said six policemen, one civilian and seven rebels were killed.

Local officials said troop reinforcements were sent to both areas and began searching for the rebels, who had retreated into the jungle.

New government

The raids came on the day that the new cabinet of Mr Wickramasinghe was sworn in, following this month's controversial general election.

Ranil Wickramasinghe
Ranil Wickramasinghe says he wants to open peace talks
Correspondents say the attacks come as a surprise, given that Mr Wickramasinghe's United National Party was elected on a platform of holding peace talks with the rebels.

The previous government, led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, often proposed peace talks but carried out a military campaign against the Tamil Tigers.

In November, the rebels lowered their demands, saying they would be willing to accept political autonomy in the north and east of the island rather than a separate state.

More than 64,000 people have died in the conflict since fighting began in 1983.

See also:

11 Dec 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka president backs down
09 Dec 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka's new PM sworn in
07 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Sri Lanka's hopes for unity
30 Oct 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka arms offer to rebels
29 Oct 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka election opens with blast
19 Jul 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Sri Lanka's political rivals
27 Apr 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka: An unwinnable war?
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