At least 48 Tamil Tiger rebels and a soldier were killed in a series of gunbattles in Sri Lanka's strife-torn north with the army yesterday claiming to have a captured a major LTTE base after three days of fierce fighting.
At least 17 LTTE cadres were killed as troops on Friday captured LTTE's "Michael Base" in north-east Welioya, the defence ministry said, adding forces attacked Tamil Tiger rebels along northern front lines in the Jaffna, Vavuniya, Welioya and Mannar regions.
According to the sources, the LTTE camp is one of the strategic satellite bases of the rebels' main "One Four Base" complex situated inside the Mulaithiuvu jungle in the north.
Troops marching towards North of Janakapura, into Mulaithiuvu, succeeded after three days of fierce fighting, the ministry said.
The structure of the base extends over 200 square metres that includes several underground bunkers.
In other clashes, troops killed an LTTE cadre and wounded two others in a confrontation, it said adding six LTEE rebels were killed and five others injured in an encounter at North Kiribbanwewa area in Welioya.
The army also captured a LTTE bunker after injuring eight tiger rebels in the region, it said.
A soldier was wounded while on duty when an anti personnel mine exploded in Ampaddankulam area in North-western Mannar yesterday, the ministry said.
Two LTTE cadres were killed and another injured by troops in the same area later in the day.
Meanwhile, two tiger rebels were shot dead when troops launched an attack in Kiriththivu in Mannar yesterday, the military 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.
Fighting has escalated on this Indian Ocean island in recent months, with the military stepping up ground assaults and airstrikes on rebel-held territory. The government has pledged to crush the insurgents by the end of the year.
The rebels have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
The government had vowed to end the insurgency by the end of this year, but army chief Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka told reporters Monday it may take another year to defeat the rebels.