Sri Lanka says fighting in southern district

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COLOMBO, Oct 15 (Reuters) Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels attacked Sri Lanka government forces in the south of the island today, far from the usual battlegrounds in the north, the military said.

The clashes took place in the southern district of Hambanthota, said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, adding reinforcements had been sent to the area. No further details were available.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (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.

Sri Lanka's military said it has killed 137 Tamil Tiger rebels but lost 10 soldiers in the past 12 days of fighting.

The clashes in the north, focus of renewed civil war between the state and LTTE, are the latest in a series of near daily clashes in recent months.

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 RSA RN2112

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