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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Tamil Tiger ambush kills six
Tamil tigers
The rebels killed six soldiers and wounded 10
By Frances Harrison in Colombo

The Sri Lankan military says Tamil Tiger guerrillas have ambushed troops on patrol in the east of the island, killing six soldiers and injuring 10.

Map of Sri Lanka
The rebels attacked the troops as they were returning to base shortly after 8am local time.

According to the local hospital, one civilian was killed and 15 were wounded in the ensuing mortar fire.

The fighting came just hours after the security forces said they had successfully raided a key rebel logistics centre in the east, killing at least 14 guerrillas.

Government raid

The military says reinforcements were rushed to the area as the rebels started firing mortars into government-controlled territory after the ambush.

Sri Lankan soldier
The ambush may have been a response to a commando attack on the rebels
But local people say there was an exchange of mortar fire between the two sides, and that civilians in a Muslim village two kilometres south-west of Valaichchanai town were injured.

People as far away as Batticaloa town, 30km to the south, said they could hear the sound of the mortars during the morning.

There has been no word from the rebels on the attack, but it may have been in response to Monday's raid by government forces on a Tamil Tiger camp in which elite police commandos said they had killed 14 rebels.

The intensity of the attacks, especially in the east of the island, seems to be gradually increasing as hopes for the Norwegian-sponsored peace process dim.

Discussions have stalled over the issue of whether Sri Lanka will lift the ban on the Tigers before peace talks, and some reports say the Norwegian mediator is even having trouble getting an appointment to see the rebels' chief negotiator, who is based in London.

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See also:

19 May 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka 'close' to truce
16 May 01 | South Asia
Muslims demand Sri Lanka talks role
30 Apr 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka fighting 'sets back peace'
27 Apr 01 | South Asia
Casualties mount in Sri Lanka
23 Apr 01 | South Asia
Tamil Tigers to end truce
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