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Tamil Tiger mine kills top army commanders

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka's military suffered its worst setback when senior field commanders were killed in a mine explosion on the eve of a planned offensive against Tamil guerrillas, military officials said yesterday.

Maj Gen Denzil Kobbekaduwa and eight of his top men, who were directly responsible for operations in the island's north, were blown up on the government-controlled Kayts islet on Saturday, the military said.

The explosion stunned Sri Lanka's defence establishment and compounded military reversals of the past month during which the separatist Tamil Tigers killed 120 soldiers. Local newspapers said the virtual loss of the entire northern high command would have a demoralising effect not only on the military but also on the entire population.