'Fresh battles kill 7 Tamil rebels, 1 soldier'
Scattered battles in the war-torn jungles of northern Sri Lanka left seven Tamil separatists and a soldier dead, the military said on Thursday.
Fighting between the two sides has sharply increased in recent weeks, with the government vowing to retake Tamil Tiger-controlled territory and crush the rebels after more than two decades of warfare.
Government troops killed three Tamil rebels in fighting Wednesday along the west coast of Mannar district, a defense ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Three soldiers were wounded, he said. Soldiers also attacked rebels in the Welioya region, triggering a battle that killed three rebels and wounded three soldiers. In nearby Vavuniya, a confrontation meanwhile killed one rebel and a soldier, official said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment.
Both sides commonly exaggerate their enemies' casualties while underplaying their own. It was not possible to independently confirm the numbers because journalists are barred from the conflict zone. The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who were marginalized for decades by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.