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This LTTE handout picture taken somewhere in the Wanni region in northern Sri Lanka on Saturday shows Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran (L) handing over a magazine to his political wing chief P Nadesan (R) at a ceremony commemorating the deaths of suicide bombers who carried out attacks in the past 21 years. Photo: AFP
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Sri Lankan troops have killed another 19 Tamil Tiger rebels and lost two of their own soldiers in fresh fighting in the island's north, the defence ministry said yesterday.

Troops killed the 19 members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and wounded 27 others in the districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitivu and Jaffna on Saturday, the ministry said.

A total of 13 government soldiers were also wounded in Saturday's clashes.

There was no immediate word from the LTTE on the latest violence.

However, the Tigers released pictures of their elusive leader Velupillai Prabhakaran commemorating his suicide bombers on the 21st anniversary of the first suicide attack by his guerrillas.

The Tigers have deployed over 250 suicide bombers, known as Black Tigers, to carry out devastating attacks since July 1987.

The defence ministry's latest claims of casualties takes the number of rebels reported killed by government troops since the beginning of the year to 4,755 against the loss of 427 soldiers.

Government figures cannot be independently verified as journalists are barred from visiting frontline areas.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers on Sunday commemorated 356 men and women who have staged suicide attacks since the tactic was first used by the rebels 21 years ago.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they held ceremonies in guerrilla-held Wanni region on Saturday to mark the 21st anniversary of the first suicide truck bombing by a cadre known as Captain Miller.

The elusive Tiger supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran, 53, led the remembrance ceremonies at an undisclosed location with the participation of his elite "Black Tiger" suicide cadres, the pro-rebel web site reported.

"Three hundred and fifty six Black Tigers have laid down their lives, 254 of them in sea operations, during the last 21 years since," Tamilnet said.

Last year, the Tigers commemorated 322 suicide bombers who perished in attacks.

Their figures showed that 34 suicide bombers had carried out attacks in the past year. An attack on a key air base in October was the worst, with 21 suicide bombers destroying a fleet of aircraft.

One rebel later returned to the north with video footage of the attack, while the others were shot dead or blew themselves up.

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