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Tamil Rebel Unit Reported Trapped by Indian Forces

November 25, 1987|Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Indian peacekeeping troops reportedly trapped a large contingent of Tamil rebels in marshy jungle land Tuesday, and sources said the troops had called in helicopter gunships for support in fierce fighting.

It was the first reported major combat since a 48-hour cease-fire declared by the Indians ended Monday morning, and it apparently was the first time the Indians in Sri Lanka have used air support.

Up until Tuesday, Indian officials have said that peacekeeping forces held back on using air power because the separatist Tamils were entrenched in populated areas.

But the United News of India news agency, quoting unidentified sources, said that the eastern Sri Lanka battle site was "uninhabited and a known militant stronghold."

Tamil residents in eastern Batticaloa district reported that hundreds of Indian troops were pouring into the nearby jungles.

The residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Indians were tipped off about a planned ambush of troop convoys. The rebels, members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, were taken by surprise and trapped in the area, the residents said.

About 20,000 Indian troops are patrolling Sri Lanka under a July peace accord aimed at ending the Tamil ethnic war.

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