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Government forces take historic Catholic shrine from rebels

.- Sri Lankan government troops have taken an historic Catholic church from the Tamil Tiger rebels after the latest battle in the country’s 25-year-old civil war, Reuters reports.

The Wednesday fighting in the north of Sri Lanka killed 21 people.  The Sri Lankan army said that 17 rebels had been killed, while four of its own soldiers died in the fighting.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the Sri Lankan army had taken the Catholic church in Madhu in the northwest without any resistance.  "The troops managed to enter Madhu without firing a single gunshot and without any resistance," Nanayakkara said.

The Catholic church of Our Lady of Madhu is centuries old and normally houses a revered 400-year-old statue of Mary.  The church, a key place of worship for Catholics in the country, had been under rebel Tamil control since 1999.

According to the Sri Lanka Guardian, Catholic priests and nuns fled the church on April 3 with the statue of Our Lady of Madhu.  They reportedly moved to Thevanpiddi, which is under Tamil rebel control.

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