Four dead in firefights in Sri Lanka north -military

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COLOMBO, Sep 19 (Reuters) At least three Tamil Tiger rebels and a soldier were killed in clashes in northern Sri Lanka today, the military said, as renewed civil war grinds on.

The fighting in the northern districts of Vavuniya and Jaffna comes amid a rash of land and sea battles, ambushes and air raids between the military and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam guerrillas in which thousands have been killed since early 2006.

''The confrontation in Vavuniya killed three terrorists and we recovered one T-56 (assault rifle) and six hand grenades,'' a military spokesman said, declining to be named in line with policy.

The military said one soldier was killed and three were wounded in a separate confrontation in the northern Jaffna peninsula, which is cut off from the rest of the island by rebel lines.

The spokesman said ground troops believed several Tiger rebels were killed or badly wounded in that clash.

The Tigers, who say they are fighting for an independent state for minority ethnic Tamils in the north and east, were not immediately available for comment. There was no independent confirmation of how many people were killed or what had happened.

An estimated 5,000 people have died since early last year alone in renewed fighting after a peace process collapsed. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the war erupted in 1983.

REUTERS SG PM1600

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