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Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 18:43 UK

Fresh clashes in Sri Lankan north

A Sri Lankan soldier stands guard in Vavuniya, northeast of Colombo, on 16 September 2008
The military has mounted an offensive to retake Tamil-held parts of the north

There have been fresh clashes between Tamil rebels and government troops in northern Sri Lanka, as the military offensive there continue.

The military also announced details of casualties from Thursday's fierce fighting, saying more than 60 Tamil Tigers were killed in multiple battles.

A pro-Tiger website said rebels had killed 25 soldiers.

Troops are trying to retake the Tigers' political hub, Kilinochchi, as part of a government vow to crush the rebels.

The government bars most journalists from the north of Sri Lanka and the accounts cannot be independently verified.

Military offensive

For a second day the most intense fighting was around Nachchikuda on the north-western coast, reports the BBC's Roland Buerk from the capital, Colombo.

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On Thursday, deadly fighting was reported to the east of the port. A sea battle also took place offshore and several rebel boats were sunk, the navy said.

Other clashes took place elsewhere and a total of 62 rebels and eight soldiers were killed, the military said.

The Tamil Tigers said they had beaten back the military advance, according to the pro-Tiger website, TamilNet.

The army has been conducting a major offensive against the rebels in northern areas of the island.

It says it is now just 5.5km (3.5 miles) from Kilinochchi town, where the Tigers have their administrative headquarters.

The UN and other aid groups pulled out of the area earlier this week after the government said it could not guarantee their safety. About 250,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been fighting for a separate Tamil homeland in the north and east for 25 years.

Human rights groups say that both the rebels and the military have been responsible for murders and abductions in a war that has killed 70,000 people and is one of South Asia's longest-running and most persistent insurgencies.


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