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Saturday, July 5, 2008 - Page updated at 09:15 PM

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Sri Lanka says 20 killed in new fighting

Nineteen Tamil Tiger rebels and a Sri Lankan soldier were killed in a new round of fighting in the island's restive north, the military said Sunday.

Associated Press Writer

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka —

Nineteen Tamil Tiger rebels and a Sri Lankan soldier were killed in a new round of fighting in the island's restive north, the military said Sunday.

Battles broke out Saturday on the northern front lines of the Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar and Welioya regions as soldiers tried to push into the rebel stronghold, a military official said.

The worst clashes were reported in several villages of Vavuniya district where 12 rebels were killed, the official said on condition of anonymity, in line with government rules.

Three rebels were killed in Mannar and four rebels and a soldier were killed in Welioya, the official said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be immediately reached for comment and it was not possible to verify the military's claims because reporters are barred from the war zone.

Each side is known to exaggerate casualties inflicted upon the other, while underreporting their own losses.

The government earlier promised its soldiers would capture rebel territory and dismantle their de facto state by the end of 2008. However, the country's army commander told reporters last week it could take another year to defeat the guerillas.

Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the country's ethnic minority Tamils who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by majority ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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