COLOMBO Sri Lankan troops killed 26 Tamil Tiger rebels in fresh fighting in the far north of the island on Monday, the military said on Tuesday, as they pushed further into the rebels' northern stronghold.
The Sri Lanka air force again bombed rebel positions as fighting continued across several northern districts.
"In confrontations on Monday, troops killed 26 LTTE terrorists and 29 were wounded," said a national security spokesman, who asked not to be identified, referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Six solders were also killed and another 22 were wounded in the fighting, the spokesman said.
The Tamil Tigers were not immediately available for comment. They are fighting for an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka for ethnic Tamils, a minority in the predominantly Sinhalese country.
The latest fighting came days after the military claimed they had entered northern Vanni region where the rebels' de facto capital, Kilinochchi, is located, amid an almost daily barrage of land, sea and air attacks.
So far this year about 5,720 rebels have been killed in the fighting, with the loss of 752 soldiers, according to a compilation of military data.
Both sides frequently underplay their losses and exaggerate their victories. Independent verification of their claims is usually impossible to obtain until weeks after the event.
Sri Lanka's government is trying to retake the Tiger's northern stronghold gradually and win the 25-year civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people.
Analysts say the military has an advantage in the latest phase of the war given its superior air power, strength of numbers and swathes of terrain captured in the island's east. But they still see no clear winner on the horizon.