Jets bomb S Lanka rebels, troops kill 31 Tigers-Army

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COLOMBO, Nov 1 (Reuters) Sri Lankan troops killed 31 Tamil Tigers fighters in a series of clashes in the north of the island, as warplanes bombed rebel training camps today, the military said.

Two soldiers were also killed and 17 wounded in the clashes with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northwestern district of Mannar and neighbouring Vavuniya, the focus of renewed civil war.

Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said troops recovered the bodies of eight fighters after the fighting in Mannar, while the rebels took away bodies of 14 other comrades.

Another eight rebels were killed in Muhamalai in the northern Jaffna peninsula, which sits on the sealed ''border'' between rebel and state-held territory. One fighter was killed in Vavuniya.

Separately, the air force said jets bombed two identified rebel training camps in Kokkuttoduvai in Tiger-held Mullaittivu district in the island's far north, where the rebels control a de-facto state the government has vowed to overrun.

''Pilots confirmed the targets were accurate and the camps were badly destroyed. We have observed some movements. They must be evacuating casualties,'' said air force spokesman Group Captain Ajantha de Silva.

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

The government briefly banned reporting on troop deployments and proposed military operations and arms procurement yesterday, citing irresponsible reporting by a radio network it has since shut down after accusing it of airing a misleading broadcast.

However, it then did a U-turn just hours later, revoking the censorship that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had ordered -- which carried a penalty of up to five years' hard labour -- saying he was now satisfied the media was acting ''responsibly''.

An estimated 5,000 people have been killed since early last year amid near-daily land and sea clashes, ambushes and air strikes. The death toll since the conflict erupted in 1983 stands at about 70,000.

The Tigers are fighting for a Tamil independent state.

REUTERS PJ PM1840

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