Sri Lanka fresh fighting kills 18 in north

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Colombo, Nov 10: Sri Lankan troops killed 17 Tamil Tiger rebels in clashes in the north of the island, while a soldier was also killed in the fighting, a military spokesman said today.

The clashes, in the northern district of Vavuniya and northwestern district of Mannar yesterday, were the latest engagements in a a renewed civil war between government forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighters.

''Troops attacked terrorist bunkers in Vavuniya in two separate places. Intercepted communications said eight terrorists were killed,'' a spokesman at the Media Centre for National Security said.

The military added that nine rebels and were killed and 14 wounded in further confrontations and artillery fire in Vavuniya and Mannar districts, while a soldier was also killed in the fighting in Vavuniya.

The Tigers, 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.

Reuters>

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