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

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

Rebels said they killed 25 soldiers.

The military said only two soldiers were 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 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, who are fighting for an independent Tamil state, said in an emailed statement they had repulsed a two-pronged military advance, killed 25 soldiers and wounded more than 60.

The Tigers also said seven rebels were killed in fighting in Mannar while they had foiled two infiltration attempt by the Sri Lankan military at Muhamalai, in northern Jaffna peninsula.

There were no independent accounts of the clashes.

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

A few hours later it revoked the censorship ordered by President Mahinda Rajapaksa -- punishable by up to five years' hard labour -- saying he was now satisfied the media was acting responsibly.

An estimated 5,000 people have been killed in since fighting broke out early last year. The death toll since the conflict erupted in 1983 stands at about 70,000.

REUTERS RJ BD2355

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