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Saturday, October 16, 1999 Published at 22:02 GMT 23:02 UK

World: South Asia

Bodies returned after Sri Lanka clashes

More than 100 are though to have died in the latest clashes between Tigers and the Sri Lankan army

By Susannah Price in Colombo

The Sri Lankan army has handed over 32 bodies of Tamil Tiger fighters killed in the past two days of fighting to the Red Cross.

More than 100 soldiers and Tigers are reported to have died during the fighting which broke out on Wednesday after the Tigers launched an attack near Ambagaman village in Kilinochchi district.

Fighting is reported to be continuing with heavy exchanges of artillery fire.

The true casualty figures from this latest outbreak of heavy fighting will probably never be known.

However it is clear that the Tigers' attack on the forward defence lines on Wednesday cost them several fighters.

[ image:  ]
The International Committee of the Red Cross was given the bodies to pass on to the Tigers.

The government said it killed more than 100 Tigers during the fighting so far, but will not allow journalists into the area to confirm the figure.

The official number of soldiers killed was 19 with 61 injured. But the large number of ambulance sirens in Colombo suggests the true figure is much higher.

The Tamil Tiger radio listed the names of seven of their fighters who were killed and said both parties were continuing to exchange artillery fire.

While the comparatively high number of dead made headlines in some papers, the state run Daily News did not even mention the conflict.

Meanwhile a government press release said four Tigers and a soldier were killed during an exchange of fire on the Jaffna Peninsula - and in the eastern Ampare district, the Tigers attacked a police post and killed a home guard.

This was in spite of the fact there was supposed to see a ceasefire on both sides to allow children to be immunised against polio.

An army spokesman said on Friday they would respect the ceasefire as long as the Tigers did.

However sources said the effective closure of the crossing point between the rebel-held and government-administrated areas meant the polio vaccine did not even reach the Tiger areas.

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