Sri Lanka troops kill 42 rebels in northern battles

COLOMBO, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan troops killed 42 Tamil Tiger guerrillas in two days of fighting in the north of the island, the military said on Wednesday, pressing on with an offensive against rebel strongholds.

Government jets also bombed a Sea Tiger base in the northern rebel held district of Mullaitivu, destroying two boats.

There was no comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils. Independent confirmation of battlefield casualties is not possible, and analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses while playing down their own.

“Troops attacked LTTE forward defence line in Muhamalai in seven directions this morning,” said a spokesman at the Media Center for National Security. “Monitoring of rebel communications confirmed five LTTE terrorists were killed and 25 others were wounded in the confrontation.”

On Tuesday, troops killed 37 rebels in fighting in the northern region. The army lost four soldiers.

Sri Lanka’s government is pursuing a strategy to gradually retake the Tiger’s northern stronghold and win the 25-year civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people.

Last week the government said troops had entered Kilinochchi district where the rebels’ de facto capital by the same name is located.

Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani