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Sri Lankan warplanes bomb rebel training base

world Updated: May 22, 2007 09:57 IST

Sri Lankan warplanes pounded a separatist Tamil Tiger rebel training base in the north on Tuesday, the military said, in worsening violence that has shattered an internationally backed peace process.

The air force targeted a base in Mankulam in the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi district, an official at the Defense Ministry's information center said on condition of anonymity, in line with policy.

There were no immediate details on casualties or damage, but pilots confirmed that the mission was "successful," the official said.

There was no immediate comment from the rebels. The air strikes come a day after four soldiers and two rebels were killed in a roadside bomb blast and two separate clashes in the north, a region where the military says fighting in the past four months had claimed the lives of 600 combatants.

The military said on Sunday that 541 rebels and 44 Sri Lankan soldiers have been killed in fighting in two northern districts, Mannar and Vavuniya. Both lie along the frontier separating government and rebel territory.

There was no way to independently verify the military's claim, and diplomats and members of a Nordic cease-fire monitoring mission that remains in place have said they believe both sides routinely inflate the number of casualties.

The rebels denied suffering such big losses.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels have fought the government for more than two decades to create a separate homeland for the island' nation's ethnic minority Tamils, who have suffered discrimination by the majority ethnic Sinhalese-dominated state.

Nearly 70,000 people have died in the conflict including some 5,000 people killed since December 2005 when the cease-fire started withering.

Neither side however have withdrawn from the cease-fire despite public claims that the agreement has become irrelevant.