Tamil Tigers kill 51 soldiers
Tamil Tigers killed 51 Sri Lankan soldiers in fierce fighting in the island's north, a pro-rebel Website reported yesterday.
The military denied dozens of troops died and said 20 insurgents were killed.
About 150 soldiers were also wounded in clashes near Dharmapuram village in the Tamil-dominated north after the military launched an offensive Friday, TamilNet quoted the rebels' media unit as saying.
However, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said 20 rebels and seven soldiers were killed in the clashes.
It was not possible to verify the battle details and the two sides are known to exaggerate casualties suffered by each other while downplaying their own losses.
Meanwhile, some 170 people have fled rebel-controlled areas in northern Sri Lanka as fresh fighting erupted across several fronts, the military said yesterday.
It said the 170 men, women and children had sought shelter in government-controlled areas in the north on Friday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday warned of a "massive displacement" of civilians, many of whom had already been forced to move numerous times.
"Tens of thousands of displaced civilians are concentrated in an area so small that there are serious concerns for their physical safety and living conditions, in particular in terms of hygiene," ICRC said.
Troops backed by helicopter gunships targeted rebels positions in the northern area of Dharmapuram on Friday, inflicting heavy casualties on the Tamil Tigers, the army said. It said a few soldiers were injured.
Government troops recently captured the capital of the rebels' de facto state and a northern peninsula the cultural centre of the country's ethnic minority Tamils perceived as the heart of the insurgents' 25-year separatist campaign.
Facing intense pressure from advancing government troops, the rebels are now squeezed into a dwindling territory in the northeast.
Authorities say they will crush the rebels and retake their remaining territory in months.
Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the country's ethnic minority Tamils, who have suffered marginalisation by successive governments controlled by majority ethnic Sinhalese.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.