Soldiers killed 12 Tamil separatists in fighting along the front lines dividing government territory from the rebels de facto state in northern Sri Lanka, the military said on Monday.
At least four rebels died in clashes Sunday in the Kilinochchi region, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said. Thirteen soldiers were wounded in the same battles, Nanayakkara said. Also on Sunday, clashes in Vavuniya, Welioya and Mullaitivu regions killed eight rebels and wounded three soldiers, he said. Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment on the military's claims.
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 guerrilla group 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.