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Sri Lankan Says Ruling Party Won Poll in Eastern Region

Sri Lanka's election commission says the country's ruling party has won local council elections in Eastern Province. However, monitors say the election was marred by fraud and voter intimidation.

Residents of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts voted Saturday for a new provincial assembly. Results announced Sunday gave the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance coalition 20 of the 35 assembly seats.

It was the first election in Eastern Province in two decades. Sri Lankan officials say the vote marks a fresh start for the tense region, coming one year after the government regained control of Eastern Province from Tamil Tiger rebels.

The opposition United National Party also complained of widespread irregularities and rejected the outcome.

The ruling party of President Mahinda Rajapaksa teamed with a breakaway rebel group known as the TMVP in the election. The TMVP has been accused of murder, kidnappings and recruiting child soldiers.

Tamil rebels have been fighting for an independent Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka since 1983. Fighting has escalated since the government officially withdrew from a cease-fire agreement earlier this year, charging that rebels were repeatedly violating the truce.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.