Source AP ©

Sri Lankan troops kill 9 Tamil Tiger rebels in fighting in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan military troops firing mortar shells and artillery killed nine Tamil Tiger rebels and wounded 36 others during a heavy daylong battle in northern Sri Lanka.

Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb targeting a group of soldiers on foot patrol in the volatile northern Jaffna peninsula killed two civilians and wounded three soldiers, the military said, blaming Tamil Tigers for the attack.

The fighting in the Mannar area along the border between rebel-controlled territory and government-held areas began Monday morning and did not subside until early Tuesday, military officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Four soldiers were wounded in the fighting, the military officials said.

It was not possible to independently verify the death toll, and rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment. Both sides routinely exaggerate their opponent's casualty figures while downplaying their own.

The fighting took place in an area from which Tamil Tiger fighters routinely attack government forces with mortars, the military said. To halt the shelling, soldiers launched an attack about 5 a.m. Monday, they said.

The Mannar area, along the southern edge of the de facto state the Tigers have set up in northern Sri Lanka, has been the scene of heavy fighting in recent months as the government weighs whether to launch an all-out offensive against the rebel heartland. In July, government forces drove the rebels out of eastern Sri Lanka, where they had been entrenched for 13 years.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for 24 years to create an independent state for the ethnic Tamil minority in north and eastern Sri Lanka following decades of discrimination by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

On Monday, fighting along the front lines north of rebel territory on the Jaffna Peninsula killed one soldier and 20 rebels, the military said.