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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sri Lankan Schools Close Amid Steady Violence

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels traded artillery and mortar fire in northern Sri Lanka on Tuesday, an official said, as schools closed over fears that civilians could be targeted by the insurgents.

Clashes in northern and eastern Sri Lanka over the past four weeks have undermined the country's already shaky cease-fire. Violence continued unabated Tuesday on the northern Jaffna Peninsula, the heartland of the Tamil minority in whose name the Tigers claim to fight.

Sri Lankan military spokesman Brigadier Athula Jayawardana said soldiers faced sporadic rebel attacks around Muhumalai, a village along the frontier that separates government and Tamil Tiger territory, although fighting has tapered off. He told reporters that following the weekend's intense fighting, soldiers had recovered bodies of 79 rebels, out of more than 200 believed killed. He said 90 soldiers and sailors were also killed. The Tigers had no immediate comment on the death toll, but each side routinely disputes figures offered by the other, and reliable casualty counts are nearly impossible to come by.

Aid workers estimate that around 100,000 people have been displaced in northern and eastern Sri Lanka since July by the fighting, the worst seen here since a 2002 cease-fire.

The 2002 truce was intended to halt more than two decades of bloodshed between the government and the rebels, who have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for the country's 3.2 million Tamils. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "increasingly alarmed" over the violence and called on both sides "to cease hostilities immediately and to return to the negotiating table," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.