Colombo : At least 70 Tamil rebels have been killed in two confrontations with the Sri Lankan military, one at sea off north-eastern Sri Lanka and another on land in the east, military officials said Wednesday.
The Navy sunk five rebel boats and damaged nine when a battle broke out late Tuesday after the Navy confronted a cluster of 20 rebel boats, including four suicide attack craft, off Vettilaikerni, 410 kilometres north-east of Colombo, the military said.
The Navy called for air support to destroy some of the boats fleeing the area while the Army used multi-barrel rocket launchers to corner the flotilla, military officials said.
Fighting lasted for more than eight hours, continuing into the night, and one of the boats belonging to the separatist rebels was seized, they added.
The Navy claimed it did not suffer any losses in the attack.
In a separate battle Tuesday in Thoppigala in Batticaloa province 320 kilometres east of Colombo, 30 more rebels were believed to have been killed as government troops claimed they were reaching the final stages of a major military drive to clear the eastern province of rebels.
"We have cleared 98 per cent of the east and managed to drive out the LTTE," military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said, referring to the Tamil separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
During the past two months, the military has been trying to clear the jungle base of the rebels in Thoppigala and has said it has killed 188 rebels and lost nine army personnel. The area is believed to be the last stronghold of the rebels in the eastern province.
There was no independent confirmation of the casualty figures and damage inflicted in either battle. There has also been no comment from the rebels.
Fighting in northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka have escalated during the past 18 months, claiming the lives of more than 4,200 people. The LTTE has been waging its battle for an independent Tamil state since the 1970s.