A series of gunbattles between government forces and the Tamil Tigers killed 15 rebels and seven soldiers in war-torn northern Sri Lanka, the military said on Tuesday. Fighting broke out on Monday along the front lines separating government-controlled territory and the rebels' de facto state in the north, a military statement said.
The heaviest fighting was reported in Kilinochchi district, where two separate clashes killed six rebels and one soldier, it said. Eleven fighters were wounded.
Other battles in Mullaitivu and Welioya regions killed four soldiers and one rebel, the statement said.
Army troops captured a part of a reservoir in Welioya on Monday after a clash that killed eight rebels and two soldiers, it said. Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Both sides routinely exaggerate enemy casualties and underreport their own. Independent verification of the fighting was not possible because most journalists are barred from the war zone in the north. Fighting has escalated in recent weeks on the Indian Ocean island. The military claims to have captured several rebel bases and large chunks of territory, while government officials have reiterated their pledge to crush the Tamil Tiger guerrillas by the end of the year.
The rebels have been fighting for an independent state in the north and east since 1983, following decades of marginalization of ethnic Tamils by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.