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Two bombs left at least eight civilians dead in guerrilla-held territory in northern Sri Lanka, Tamil rebels said Thursday as the defence ministry reported killing nine militants.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said Sri Lanka's military had infiltrated the area and carried out two roadside bomb attacks.
Civilians were travelling in tractor-trailers when they were targeted by the military, the LTTE said in a statement.
"Two Claymore attacks by the Sri Lanka Deep Penetration unit within five hours... killed eight civilians," the statement said. "In both incidents the victims were travelling in tractor-trailers to work in the paddy (rice) fields."
Sri Lanka's military routinely denies carrying out such bombings inside LTTE-held territory in the north, but authorities in Colombo stepped up security amid fears of retaliatory strikes.
Earlier this month, the Tigers made similar allegations against the military, holding it responsible for a string of attacks that killed scores of civilians, including children.
The rebel charges were followed by bomb attacks against civilian transport in Sinhalese areas of the country. The military blamed the Tigers for those strikes.
The latest accusations came as fighting raged along the front lines of the de facto LTTE mini-state. Nine LTTE cadres were killed in Wednesday's clashes, the defence ministry said.
It also raised the number of Tigers killed by security forces on Tuesday to 24 from an earlier estimate of 13.
Sporadic clashes left at least 13 Tamil Tiger guerrillas and two Sri Lankan government soldiers dead around rebel-held territory in the north, the defence ministry said Wednesday.