Sri Lanka says fresh fighting kills 18 rebels

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COLOMBO, Nov 17 (Reuters) Sri Lankan troops killed 18 Tamil Tiger rebels in clashes in the north of the island, the military said today.

The clashes, in the northern district of Vavuniya and Jaffna peninsula, were the latest engagements in intensified fighting between government forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighters.

''LTTE radio intercepts confirm that five terrorists were killed and two were injured in the attack,'' a spokesman at the Media Centre for National Security said.

The spokesman said 13 rebels were killed in two other confrontations.

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.

The military has launched an offensive to drive out the rebels from Mannar after evicting them earlier this year from jungle terrain they controlled in the east.

Around 5,000 people have been killed in fighting between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighters since early 2006. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the war erupted in 1983.

REUTERS PD RN1706

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