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Sri Lanka Blasts Kill 18 Troops, 9 Civilians; Rebels Blamed

From Reuters

A land mine killed 18 soldiers Friday and a blast at a canning and bottling plant killed nine civilians in attacks the government blamed on Tamil separatist guerrillas.

Security sources said that in addition to the 18 soldiers killed in Trincomalee in the eastern part of the country, 15 others were wounded when their vehicle ran over the land mine.

The bomb blast that killed nine civilians and wounded 50 others occurred at a Colombo fruit and soft drink factory minutes earlier.

The explosions marked the latest upsurge of violence in the bloody dispute between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils. More than 3,000 people have been killed in the conflict over the past three years.

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Bomb Rocked Plant

In Colombo, workers at the fruit and soft drinks processing plant were unloading bottles from a truck when a bomb explosion rocked the plant, police said. A hospital spokesman said a wounded man told him that the truck had arrived at the factory from northern Jaffna, stronghold of the guerrillas.

Last Monday, a Tamil guerrilla group warned multinational companies in Sri Lanka to pull out of the island or face attacks on their plants.

The two blasts Friday followed a government offensive this month in the Jaffna peninsula in which troops failed to extend their control and dislodge guerrilla forces. The government said 32 people died in the fighting between troops and guerrillas during the six-day operation. Residents put the death toll at over 90.


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