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Sri Lanka says another 24 rebels killed in new fighting

At least 24 Tamil Tigers have been killed in fresh fighting as Sri Lankan troops struggled to dismantle the guerrillas' mini-state in the island's embattled north.

world Updated: Sep 06, 2008 13:26 IST

At least 24 Tamil Tigers were killed in fresh fighting as Sri Lankan troops struggled to dismantle the guerrillas' mini-state in the island's embattled north, the government said on Saturday.

The rebels were killed on Friday in three separate battle areas, the defence ministry said in a statement, adding that one government trooper was wounded.

The military wants to break up the Tamil Tigers' de facto state by capturing the rebel capital of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (200 miles), north of Colombo.

Sri Lankan army, which has launched a major offensive against the guerrillas, are within striking distance of Kilinochchi, the government said.

They ejected the guerrillas from the east of the island in July 2007.

The latest casualty figures raise the number of rebels reported killed since January to 6,387. The military says 613 soldiers were killed during the same period.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) issued no comment on the latest fighting.

The casualty figures cannot be independently verified as the government does not allow journalists or human rights groups access to the front lines.

The ethnic Sinhalese-dominated government has asked tens of thousands of Tamil civilians living in rebel territory to cross over to government-held areas in the island's north to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

Tens of thousands of people have died on both sides since the LTTE launched a separatist campaign in 1972, for a homeland for minority Tamils in the island's north and east.