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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ambassadors Wounded in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- The U.S. and Italian ambassadors to Sri Lanka were slightly injured when their helicopter was targeted by mortars fired by Tamil rebels Tuesday, officials said.

The helicopter used by U.S. Ambassador Robert Blake, his Italian counterpart, Pio Mariani, and a number of other envoys had just landed in the Batticaloa district when several mortars landed close to the aircraft, said Sri Lankan government minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, who accompanied them.

"Both the ambassadors are fine and they have suffered slight injuries," Samarasinghe said.

A small piece of shrapnel was removed from Mariani's head and he was later discharged, a doctor at the government hospital said.

Envoys from Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Britain, accompanied by staff and Sri Lankan officials, were also in the helicopter to attend a meeting about development in the area, a hotbed of separatist violence. They were unhurt.

There were no reports of injuries among officials traveling with them in two separate helicopters.

The ambassadors held the scheduled meetings and arrived back in the capital, Colombo, later in the day.

The Tamil Tigers admitted firing the mortars, but blamed the Sri Lankan military.

"I express our regret at this unfortunate incident," Rasiah Ilanthirayan, the spokesman for the Tamil Tiger rebels, said from the insurgent headquarters in Kilinochchi, in the north.