Tamil Tiger rebels on Saturday returned the bodies of 12 Sri Lankan soldiers killed by them in the island's restive east, officials said.
The fighting around the rebel-dominated village of Vakaneri was described by Sri Lankan government officials as the worst single incident since a June 17 sea battle in which 15 sailors and an estimated 30 rebels perished.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) handed over the bodies to Sri Lankan authorities through the International Committee of the Red Cross, military officials said.
The handover took place at the Black Bridge area in the district of Batticaloa as the Sri Lankan military admitted it lost a total of 13 soldiers after a mortar bomb exchange with the rebels on Friday.
The defence ministry gave no casualty figures but said in a statement "the number of soldiers missing in the incident at Vakaneri has risen to 13."
For its part, the LTTE said they killed 12 soldiers and captured another alive following the confrontation that lasted about an hour.
The pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website said four Tigers were killed and six wounded in the battle.
The rebels and the government signed a ceasefire in 2002 but it has been breached by almost daily tit-for-tat attacks in the past six months.
At least 850 people have died in the violence since December, according to official figures.