20 rebels killed in various attacks: Lankan Army

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Colombo, Oct 16: Dozens of Tamil Tiger rebels and a government soldier were killed in fighting in Sri Lanka's restive north yesterday, while suspected guerrillas launched rare attacks in the south of the island, the military said.

The clashes in the north, focus of renewed civil war between the state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), follow a string of almost daily skirmishes in recent months.

''A terrorist group... came and attacked the (Forward Defence Line) in Vavuniya,'' said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara. ''Ground troops confirmed 30 killed and 15 wounded.'' He said that, in communications intercepted from the LTTE, the rebels said 20 of their fighters had been killed. One government soldier was killed and seven were wounded.

The LTTE, 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 said it had recovered seven bodies and some weapons. In another confrontation in the northern district of Jaffna, government forces killed four rebels the military said.

Suspected rebels also attacked a government detachment in the southeastern national wildlife park Yala, a popular tourist destination.

''There was an attack on an army detachment and reinforcements were sent to the area. No further details are available,'' Nanayakkara said.

Sri Lanka's military said it has killed 137 Tamil Tiger rebels and lost 10 soldiers in the past 12 days of fighting.

There has been no independent confirmation of how many people have been killed in the fighting. Military analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own.

The military has launched an offensive to drive the rebels out of Mannar, after forcing them out of 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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