Twenty-one Tamil rebels and four government troops were killed in fresh fighting in Sri Lanka's embattled north as the nation readied to host a summit of regional leaders, officials said on Wednesday.
Colombo will be the venue for the two-day summit of leaders of the 15th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which opens Saturday amid extraordinary security.
In other fighting, Sri Lankan war planes on Wednesday bombed a suspected Tiger base in the north, but there were no immediate reports of casualties. There was also no word from the separatist guerrillas about the air attacks.
However, defence ministry officials said 21 Tamil Tigers were slain in clashes yesterday in the northern Wanni region 250 kilometers north of the capital.
Four soldiers also died, officials said, adding that fighting raged in the north where troops were advancing into territory held by the guerrillas.
The government last month rejected a rebel offer for a brief unilateral ceasefire for the summit, and has kept up military raids on insurgent positions in the decades-old conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The report of new deaths comes as officials of the eight-nation South Asian grouping were in the second day of talks to lay the groundwork for the summit, which will focus on trade and terrorism.
The officials will meet tomorrow to review the agenda for their leaders.
The leaders of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will attend the summit.
The government has stepped up security across the capital for the SAARC meeting, which Colombo is hosting at a cost of nearly three billion rupees (USD 28 million).