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Saturday, July 5, 2008
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A wave of battles across Sri Lanka's embattled northern region has killed 32 ethnic Tamil rebels and two government soldiers, the military said yesterday.

Fighting has escalated on the Indian Ocean island in recent months, with the military stepping up ground assaults and air strikes on the guerrillas in line with a government pledge to capture rebel-held territory and crush the insurgents by the end of the year.

The latest fighting took place Thursday in the Vavuniya, Mannar and Welioya regions bordering the rebels' de facto northern state, a defence ministry official said on condition of anonymity because of government policy.

Several battles in Mannar left 24 guerrillas and two soldiers dead, he said. Twenty-five rebels and 10 soldiers were wounded, he said.

Other battles in Vavuniya and Welioya killed eight Tamil Tigers and wounded 12 rebels and four soldiers, the official said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment.

It was not possible to independently verify the military reports because journalists are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place. Each side commonly exaggerates its enemy's casualties and downplays its own.

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