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Fighting Kills 66 in Sri Lanka

January 2, 1999

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Two days of fighting between government troops and rebels has left 66 combatants dead, the military said Saturday.

Soldiers advanced into the Thoppigala jungles in northeastern Sri Lanka on New Year’s Eve to flush out rebels. They killed 58 rebels and wounded 18, said military spokesman Col. Ranjith Withana.

He said four soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in the fighting 130 miles east of the capital, Colombo.

The clandestine Voice of Tigers rebel radio said Saturday that five soldiers were killed in the operation and that their bodies were recovered by the guerrillas. It gave no rebel casualties.

Independent confirmation was not possible because the government does not allow reporters into the area.

On Friday, military snipers killed four more rebels near Odduchuddan town in the north, Withana said.

The guerrillas have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for minority Tamils, who say they are discriminated against by the majority Sinhalese. More than 56,000 people have been killed in the war.

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