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Red Cross Alarmed by Civilian Casualties in Sri Lanka

The International Red Cross says civilian casualties in Sri Lanka have reached appalling levels, as fighting between the military and Tamil Tiger rebels intensifies.

In a statement Wednesday Toon Vandenhove, the head of Red Cross' Colombo delegation, says the number of civilians affected by the violence, either as direct targets or as bystanders, has reached alarming numbers. He adds many of the victims have been children on their way to and from school.

Red Cross officials say violence between the military and rebels has killed more than 180 civilians and wounded 270 since the beginning of the year.

In fighting Wednesday, Sri Lanka's military says Tamil Tiger rebels set off a roadside bomb, killing two soldiers in the Vavuniya district in the island's north.

Military officials say fighting in the north killed 28 rebels Tuesday in the Vavuniya, Mannar, Welioya and Jaffna regions.

The military says more than a 1,000 people have been killed since the government announced last month it was formally pulling out of a 2002 cease-fire.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for an independent homeland, claiming discrimination from the majority-Sinhalese. An estimated 70,000 people have died since the rebels began their campaign in 1973.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and reuters.