More than 100,000 people displaced in Sri Lankan district after heavy fighting

Sunday, March 11, 2007

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- The number of refugees in eastern Sri Lanka went past 100,000, after heavy fighting in rebel-held parts of the island has forced 15,000 civilians to flee their homes in the past two days, the Red Cross said on Saturday.

Battles have escalated in recent days between government troops and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in parts of the country's rebel strongholds, after a few weeks' lull.

International Committee of the Red Cross official Davide Vignati said that since November about 105,000 displaced people have fled to government-controlled refugee camps in the eastern district of Batticaloa -- the largest number of displaced persons in one district.

Renewed fighting has left about 4,000 more people dead and at least 200,000 displaced in Sri Lanka since late 2005, when the cease-fire faltered, European truce monitors say.

Meanwhile, a Tamil Tiger spokesman said the rebels had repulsed government commandos' recent assault on a rebel base in eastern Sri Lanka. He denied military claims that the rebel camp had been overrun and 20 guerrillas killed.

A military spokesman had said earlier that special task force troops stormed the base in Ampara district, 130 miles east of the capital, Colombo, on Friday.

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