Sri Lanka north scene of heavy fighting: rebels

April 23, 2008 (AFP) – Heavy fighting between security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels broke out early Wednesday in several locations along the northern defence lines, the guerrillas said. Sri Lankan troops mounted simultaneous artillery attacks on rebel positions along the defacto frontline that separates government-held areas from swathes of land under Tiger control, the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website reported.

There was no immediate comment from the Sri Lankan military and casualties on both sides were not known.

Meanwhile, security forces killed at least nine rebels in the north of the island on Tuesday, the defence ministry said Wednesday placing its own losses at 10 soldiers injured.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been fighting since 1972 to carve out an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the north and east. Tens of thousands have died on both sides.

Security forces have killed at least 2,973 rebels since the beginning of January, according to defence ministry figures, while 180 government soldiers have died in action during the same period.

Both sides offer wildly fluctuating casualty figures which cannot be independently verified as Colo