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Heavy Death Toll in Northern Sri Lanka Clashes


Sri Lanka says at least 43 of its soldiers and 200 Tamil rebels were killed during fierce fighting Wednesday on the northern Jaffna peninsula.

Government officials in Colombo also report more than 200 soldiers were wounded.

The rebels give a different account of the fighting, however. A Tamil Tiger spokesman says the battle in Jaffna killed 10 Tamil fighters and at least 74 government soldiers.

Correspondents say neither version of Wednesday's combat can be confirmed independently.

The rebels say government forces triggered the battle by advancing toward rebel lines with heavy artillery and rockets.

The Sri Lankan military says rebels provoked the clash by firing artillery and rocket-propelled grenades, and by trying to infiltrate government areas. It said air force jets pounded rebel positions.

The rebels have warned that further incursions by the military could prompt them to pull out of peace talks scheduled for October 28th.

Hundreds of people on both sides have been killed in heavy fighting since July. The carnage has shattered a ceasefire negotiated four years ago.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP

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