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Page last updated at 17:19 GMT, Saturday, 4 April 2009 18:19 UK

'Scores die' in Sri Lanka clashes

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More than 100 Tamil Tiger fighters have been killed in two separate battles with government forces in northern Sri Lanka, army officials say.

Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said soldiers had recovered the bodies of 93 rebels in Puthukkudiyiruppu, believed to be the last rebel stronghold.

Officials earlier said 11 Tamil Tiger fighters were killed and four of their vessels destroyed in a sea battle.

It has not been possible to confirm the government's account independently.

Brig Nanayakkara said the battles represented one of "one of the biggest blows for the Tigers recently".

He gave no details of any casualties suffered by the military, and there has been no comment from the rebels.

The military has repeatedly claimed that it is near victory in the country's long-running civil conflict.

Before the latest battle, the government said more than 100 rebels had been killed in recent days.

The pro-Tamil website Tamilnet claimed that the army had killed 90 civilians and hurt 195 others in three days of attacks.

Fears for civilians

The fighting comes as the UN reiterated concerns over the fate of tens of thousands of civilians reported to be trapped in the conflict zone.

INSURGENCY TIMELINE
1976 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam form in the north-east
1987 India deploys peace-keepers to Tamil areas but they leave in 1990
1993 President Premadasa killed by Tiger bomb
2001 Attack on airport destroys half Sri Lankan Airlines fleet
2002 Government and rebels agree ceasefire
2005 Mahinda Rajapakse becomes president
2006 Heavy fighting resumes
2009 Army takes main rebel bases of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu

In a statement from his office in New York, secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said he "deplores the forced recruitment of civilians, particularly children" and urged the Tamil Tigers to let them leave the area.

The statement said the "severe restrictions on their freedom of movement violate international law".

Mr Ban also reminded the government "of its responsibility to protect civilians, and to avoid the use of heavy weapons in areas where there are civilians, as promised".

Both warring sides deny the accusations.

Meanwhile, Mr Ban's envoy for refugee rights, Walter Kalin, has been visiting relief centres in the north of the country which help house some 60,000 civilians who have fled the fighting.

Aid agencies have said there is no freedom of movement for the people inside these camps and some are overcrowded.

Mr Kalin said the government was making an effort and the UN was discussing with Sri Lankan officials ways of improving the situation in the camps, which he described as "not ideal".



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