Sri Lanka fighting kills 21 in north and east

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Colombo, Sep 15: Sri Lankan soldiers killed 15 Tamil Tiger rebels in a clashes in the north and east of the island while six military personnel were also killed, the military said today.

The latest spike in violence in the country's long-running civil war follows the launch of a new offensive by government forces to drive guerrillas of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from the northwesterly Mannar area.

The military said they had previously forced Tigers out of jungles in the east of the Indian Ocean nation.

The 15 Tamil Tigers were killed during the last 24 hours in the northern districts of Jaffna and Vavuniya and in the eastern district of Ampara, the military said. Troops also recovered a large stock of arms and ammunitions.

''A claymore mine exploded by the LTTE, targeting a military bus, killed two soldiers and wounded seven in Jaffna,'' said a spokesman at the Media Centre for National Security, part of the Defence Ministry.

''Soldiers killed 14 terrorists in three different incidents in Vavuniya. Three soldiers were killed in the fighting,'' he said.

The military also said that an elite commando police officer, wounded in fighting in Ampara, had died later in hospital.

The rebels, who want an independent state for the Tamil minority in the north and the east of the country, were not immediately available for comment.

An estimated 5,000 people have died since last year in renewed fighting after a peace process collapsed.

About 70,000 people have been killed, including thousands of civilians, since 1983 when the civil war erupted.

Reuters>

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