Colombo, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan government troops clashed with Tamil Tiger rebels Friday in the worst fighting since a cease-fire halted the civil war in 2002, leaving as many as 16 dead, officials said. The military said 13 soldiers were missing.
A pro-rebel Web site said 12 Sri Lankan soldiers were killed in the battle in a rebel-held village in eastern Batticaloa district and one soldier was captured. The site also said four rebels were killed.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the rebels had agreed to hand over the bodies of the 12 dead soldiers today.
Military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said 13 government soldiers were reported missing and four were injured after rebels attacked them with mortars.
A spokesman for a Nordic cease-fire monitoring mission confirmed the fighting in Kulathumadu, a rebel-held village of Batticaloa 140 miles east of the capital, Colombo. Samarasinghe denied that troops had knowingly entered the rebel-held region, saying the area did not have proper demarcations between the two sides.
Under a Norway-brokered cease-fire signed in 2002, both sides are prohibited from entering each other's territory with arms.