Asia Crisis

Sri Lanka suicide blast kills 12- military

(Updates number of injured, adds weekend violence)

COLOMBO, June 16 (Reuters) - At least 12 people were killed and 24 injured in a suspected Tamil Tiger rebel suicide blast in northern Sri Lanka on Monday, the military said.

It said weekend fighting in the northern and eastern districts of the country also killed 47 rebels and 10 soldiers.

Fighting in Sri Lanka's 25-year-old civil war is now concentrated in the north and the government, which drove the Tigers out of their eastern enclave last year, has vowed to finish off the rebels by the end of the year.

"Twelve people were killed ... from a suicide blast in Vavuniya town," military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said, adding several schoolchildren were also among the wounded.

Nanayakkara said a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle had blown himself in front of a police station in the town.

Sri Lanka's civil war, reignited in 2006, has hit tourism and deterred investors in the $27 billion economy. Fighting has intensified since the government annulled a six-year-old Norwegian-brokered truce in January.

The military also said that air force fighter jets bombed rebel positions in far north while the ground troops captured rebel-held areas in the north-western district of Mannar.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are fighting for an independent state in the north and east, were not immediately available for comment on the blast and the latest fighting but said the air raids killed two civilians.

According to military data, more than 4,000 Tamil Tiger rebels, 460 military personnel and 205 civilians have been killed so far this year.

Independent confirmation of battlefield casualties is not usually possible because of lack of access, and military analysts say both sides exaggerate the other's losses.

Analysts say the Sri Lankan army has the upper hand in the latest phase of the long-running war given superior air power, strength of numbers and swathes of terrain captured in the island's east. But they still see no clear winner on the horizon. (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Valerie Lee)