Lanka says 8 rebels killed in fighting in north

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Colombo, Nov 9: Sri Lankan troops killed eight Tamil Tiger rebels in fighting in the north of the island, while two policemen were killed by a suspected rebel roadside bomb, a military spokesman said today.

The clashes, in the northern district of Vavuniya and northwestern district of Mannar yesterday, were the latest in a series of near-daily engagements in recent months between government forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

''The troops killed five terrorists in two separate confrontations in Vavuniya and three terrorists were killed when troops retaliated to LTTE mortar fire in Mannar,'' a spokesman at the Media Centre for National Security said.

Four soldiers were wounded in the fighting in Vavuniya, the spokesman added.

In a separate incident in the northern area of Welioya today, two police officials were killed by a suspected Tamil Tiger roadside Claymore fragmentation mine explosion, the military said.

The rebels, who say they are fighting for an independent state for minority ethnic Tamils in the north and east, were not immediately available for comment.

There was no independent confirmation of how many people were killed in the fighting or what had happened. Military analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own.

The fighting follows a major battle in the Jaffna peninsula on Wednesday in which the military said they killed 60 rebels.

The Tigers said 20 soldiers were killed and more than 100 wounded in the clash, and that just one of their fighters was killed.

An air strike last week killed the leader of the Tigers' political wing in a body blow to hopes of ending the two-decade conflict soon.

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.


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