A Sri Lankan military advance on the stronghold of the rebel Tamil Tigers in the island's northeast triggered heavy fighting that claimed casualties on both sides, the defence ministry said on Thursday.
Ground troops backed by warplanes inched towards the rebel capital of Kilinochchi on Wednesday killing 45 guerrillas and wounding 30 more, the ministry said. It placed government troop losses at eight dead and 48 injured.
The government is looking to deal the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) a major psychological blow by taking control of Kilinochchi which has been the rebels' administrative centre for the past decade.
Sri Lanka's army chief said over the weekend that his soldiers had reached the outskirts of the town.
There was no immediate comment from the LTTE who are fighting for a separate state for minority Tamils from the majority Sinhalese community.
Sri Lanka pulled out of a six-year Norwegian-brokered truce in January, since when the military says 7,303 rebels and 715 soldiers have been killed.