Sri Lanka says 13 rebels killed in ongoing heavy fighting

Dec 25, 2007 (AFP) – At least 13 Tamil Tiger rebels were killed on Christmas Eve in heavy clashes with Sri Lankan security forces in northern Sri Lanka, the defence ministry said Tuesday. Six members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were killed in a confrontation in the district of Mannar on Monday while another five were killed in three separate clashes, the ministry said.

Two more Tigers were shot dead on the same day in the Jaffna peninsula along a de facto border separating rebel-held territory, the ministry said.

The ministry also raised the estimate for the number of guerrillas killed in a clash three days ago to 22 from an earlier estimate of eight.

The claim of more rebel casualties brings the number of Tamil fighters killed since December 1 to at least 412, according to the defence ministry.

This compares with a handful of government troops reported dead.

Both sides make sharply differing claims about casualties and independent verification is rarely possible, because the press is barred from front-line and rebel-held areas.

Tens of thousands of people have died on both sides since the LTTE launched its armed struggle for a Tamil homel