Sri Lanka says kills 6 rebels in offensive

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COLOMBO, Sep 30 (Reuters) Sri Lankan soldiers killed at least six Tamil Tiger rebels in the northwest of the island, the focus of renewed civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the military said today.

''There was a confrontation in Mannar yesterday and the ground troops confirmed at least six LTTE terrorists were killed,'' a military spokesman said. The army did not suffer any casualties, he added.

The LTTE, who say they are fighting for an independent state for minority ethnic Tamils in the north and east, were not immediately available for comment.

Mannar district, which includes Mannar island, juts out into the Palk straits towards India. It lies strategically along an old world trade route and was historically the entry point for invaders.

The military has launched an offensive to drive out the rebels from Mannar, after evicting them from jungle terrain they controlled in the east earlier this year.

Around 5,000 people have been killed in fighting between the military and the LTTE guerrillas since early 2006.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the war erupted in 1983.

REUTERS SG RN1445

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