Sri Lanka says kills 29 Tamil Tigers, rebels deny it
COLOMBO Dec 28 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's military said on Friday troops had killed 29 Tamil Tigers in a series of land clashes over 24 hours, as the death toll from renewed civil war continued its inexorable climb.
The army said troops battled the rebels in the northern district of Vavuniya on Thursday killing 25 rebels, and killed four more in Jaffna on Friday.
The rebels denied any of their fighters were killed in Jaffna. There were no independent accounts of what had happened.
Analysts say both sides tend to overstate enemy losses and play down their own as part of a parallel propaganda war.
"A confrontation in Muhamalai in Jaffna killed four terrorists and separately one soldier was injured from a mine blast in the same area," a military spokesman said, declining to be named, in line with policy. He said 25 rebels were killed on Thursday. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are seeking to carve out an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka, said in and e-mail statement that they had prevented military infiltration attempts in the Jaffna peninsula on both Thursday and Friday.
"One SLAF (Sri Lanka Armed Forces) personnel was killed and at least five others sustained injuries ... The LTTE front-liners suffered no casualties," said Tiger military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan.
The rebel statement made no reference to fighting in Vavuniya.
The violence came after the military said it sank 11 rebel boats in a clash off the island's northern tip on Wednesday, killing around 40 insurgents, and after the air force bombed a suspected rebel naval wing base in the northeast on Thursday.
The military has vowed to wipe out the Tigers militarily, and is seeking to drive the rebels out of the northwestern district of Mannar after evicting them from vast swathes of jungle terrain they controlled in the east earlier this year.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in fighting between the military and Tigers since early 2006 alone, taking the death toll since the war erupted in 1983 to around 70,000.
Military analysts say there is no clear winner on the horizon, and fear the war could grind on for years. (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal, Editing by Simon Gardner and John Chalmers)
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