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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 June 2007, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Sri Lanka troops 'kill 30 rebels'
Sri Lankan troops
The military has been fighting for weeks in the eastern jungles
The Sri Lankan military has killed about 30 Tamil Tiger rebels in overnight clashes in the east of the country, officials say.

An army spokesman said after weeks of fighting the rebels' last stronghold in the east would fall soon.

The clashes came hours after Sri Lanka's navy said it had destroyed five Tiger boats and killed 40 rebels in the north of the country.

There has been no comment from the rebels on the fighting in the east.

But they have disputed claims by the navy in relation to fighting at sea off the northern Jaffna Peninsula.

Tamil Tiger boats. File photo
The navy and the Sea Tigers have clashed in the north of Sri Lanka

"According to our people, they managed to damage one of the Sri Lankan Navy Dvora (attack boats)," a rebel representative told the Reuters news agency.

"The Sea Tigers lost two of their men and there is no damage to any of their boats reported."

'No food'

In overnight fighting in the east, the army said it destroyed three satellite camps and was clearing the Thoppigala area.

"There are a lot of minefields," army spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe told the Reuters news agency.

"One Tamil civilian in the area said there are 73 prisoners being held by the Tigers there, including one army corporal.

"But they cannot hold on to that area now because they don't have any food."

There has been no independent confirmation of the government's claims.

Thoppigala is 120km (75 miles) north of the capital, Colombo.

It is a swathe of rugged jungle the Tigers still hold after being driven from much of the eastern province.

For weeks there have been exchanges of artillery fire and confrontations as the Sri Lankan military has closed in.

The army said troops had seized three Tiger camps overnight and afterwards counted the bodies of about 30 rebels.

Two soldiers were wounded.

'Tactical withdrawal'

Brig Samarasinghe said he believed about 150 rebels were left in Thoppigala, and that they would be defeated soon.

Earlier the rebels said they had made tactical withdrawals and that the military would struggle to hold on to the territory it had taken.

Map showing Jaffna

Meanwhile fighting continues in the north of the country, where the Tigers still control a large area.

On Tuesday, Sri Lanka's navy said an attack by two dozen rebel boats had been repelled.

They said they had destroyed five boats and killed 40 rebels in the clash that took place off the northern port of Point Pedro.

The navy said it had used gun boats and helicopter gunships in the clash.

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Colombo says the government's stated strategy is to defeat the Tigers militarily, while negotiating a political solution to the grievances of the Tamils, who have complained for decades of discrimination.

He says the first step is to build consensus on a settlement among the majority Sinhalese political parties, but there has been little progress.

The rebels have been fighting for independence since 1972.

About 60,000 people are reported to have been killed in the conflict.


SEE ALSO
Sri Lanka clash kills '15 rebels'
18 May 07 |  South Asia

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