Sri Lanka says kills 11 rebels in northern clashes

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COLOMBO, Oct 24 (Reuters) The Sri Lanka air force today bombed a Tamil Tiger training base while government soldiers killed 11 Tiger rebels in a series of clashes in the island's north the previous day, the military said.

One soldier also died, the military said.

The bombing on a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) training base came two days after the rebels mounted their biggest-ever suicide operation by land, backed by air strikes.

The military's death toll from Monday's rebel assault, in which several aircraft were damaged, rose to 14 after one wounded serviceman died in hospital.

''We have bombed a Black Tiger training base. Pilots confirmed the target was taken accurately,'' said air force spokesman Group Captain Ajantha Silva, adding that there were no details of casualties.

The military also said troops fought four separate engagements with rebel fighters in the northern district of Vavuniya late yesterday.

''The army killed 11 LTTE terrorists and a large number of terrorists were wounded in four different attacks in Vavuniya on Tuesday evening,'' said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.

He said one soldier was killed and two others wounded in a rebel mortar bomb and artillery attack.

The Tigers were not immediately available for comment on the fighting and there were no independent accounts of what had happened or how many people were killed.

Military analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own.

The fighting in the north, where a two-decade civil war is now focused after troops drove the Tigers from bastions in the east of the island, comes after the military said dozens of Tigers were killed in heavy clashes in the north last week.

An estimated 5,000 people have been killed since early last year in renewed fighting, taking the death toll since the conflict erupted in 1983 to around 70,000.

While the government has had the upper hand in recent months, analysts say there is no clear winner on the horizon and fear the conflict could rumble on for years.

Counter-terrorism experts say the only hope is for both sides to reach a long-elusive political settlement.

REUTERS SG RK1845

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