COLOMBO, Oct 1 (Reuters) Seventeen Tamil Tiger rebels and two soldiers were killed in northern Sri Lanka, the military said today, though the militants brushed off the fighting as ''almost routine''.
The violence flared in the districts of Jaffna and Mannar, the focus of renewed civil war between the state and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are fighting for an independent state for minority ethnic Tamils in the island's north and east.
''The army killed 10 terrorists who came to attack the forward defence line in Jaffna yesterday night. Ground troops confirmed about 20 injured from the attack,'' a military spokesman said, adding that a soldier was also killed and seven were wounded.
He said the military also killed seven Tiger rebels in the the northwestern district of Mannar yesterday, while a soldier was killed in the northeastern area of Welioya.
LTTE military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan said there were only ''small clashes'' in Mannar and dismissed as ''almost routine'' the heavy shelling in Jaffna.
''The Sri Lankan military claim they have inflicted heavy casualties on us, but there has been no such thing,'' he said.
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 SYU DB1136