updated 11/11/2007 4:36:49 AM ET 2007-11-11T09:36:49

Clashes between government troops and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels left 12 guerrillas and one soldier dead in Sri Lanka's restive north, the military said Sunday.

Soldiers pushed into rebel territory in the northern Mannar district on Saturday and attacked a line of bunkers, killing nine insurgents, a military official said on condition of anonymity, citing government rules.

Government forces later attacked another series of bunkers in neighboring Vavuniya district, killing two rebels.

Elsewhere in Mannar, one rebel was killed in a clash with the troops, the official said.

One soldier died and two others were wounded in a separate clash Saturday in Periyathampanai village, also in Vavuniya, he added.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said there were occasional mortar-round exchanges, but no-large scale fighting as claimed by the military. He denied the Tigers suffered any casualties, saying the government makes up figures for political gain.

Independent confirmation was impossible because the area is restricted. Both sides routinely exaggerate their opponent's casualties while downplaying their own.

Rising violence
Fighting has intensified in recent weeks in Sri Lanka's north along the front lines separating government-controlled areas from the rebels' mini-state. The military claimed Saturday it killed 23 guerrillas in fighting Friday in the north.

In July, the government declared it had ousted the Tigers from eastern Sri Lanka, though it said some pockets of rebel resistance remained in the jungles. The guerrillas still control a wide swathe of territory in the north.

The Tigers have been fighting for more than two decades for an independent state for the island's ethnic minority Tamils in the north and east because of long-standing discrimination by the majority Sinhalese-controlled governments.

A Norwegian-brokered cease-fire in 2002 brought relative calm to the country, but a new wave of violence that began in December 2005 has killed more than 5,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. More than 70,000 people have been killed since the insurgency began.

Despite the cease-fire's collapse, neither side has officially withdrawn from the pact, fearing international isolation.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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