Battle in Sri Lanka leaves at least 16 dead

Sri Lankan troops battled Tamil rebels Tuesday for control of territory in the volatile east in the fiercest clashes this year. The military said it lost four soldiers, while the rebels said 12 of their fighters were killed. Maj. Upali Rajapakse, a military spokesman, said troops captured a stretch of rebel-held land, killing at least 30 insurgents as the Sri Lankan infantry advanced and the air force bombed a guerrilla camp in Verugal village, in eastern Batticaloa district - the hotbed of ongoing violence. But a pro-rebel Web site, quoting a rebel spokesman, said only 12 guerrillas died and seven were wounded. TamilNet said 40 Sri Lankan soldiers were killed. Both sides routinely inflate the other's death toll and independent confirmation is virtually impossible.