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Sri Lanka restricts military operation for New Year

  • Story Highlights
  • Sri Lanka leader tells military to restrict operations for Sinhala, Tamil New Year
  • The two-day celebrations begin Monday.
  • Troops in the midst of an intense military push in northern Sri Lanka
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- The Sri Lankan president has ordered military troops to restrict their offensive against Tamil rebels while the nation celebrates the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

The two-day celebrations begin Monday.

Mahinda Rajapakse's office said in a statement the order was meant to allow the thousands of Tamils trapped by the fighting to travel for the New Year.

Troops are in the midst of an intense military push in northern Sri Lanka where they have snatched back large swaths of land from the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The rebels have fought for an independent homeland for the country's ethnic Tamil minority since 1983.

The civil war has left more than 70,000 people dead.

-- CNN's Iqbal Athas contributed to this report.

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