( dpa )- At least 27 Tamil rebels and six soldiers were killed in sporadic clashes in northern Sri Lanka as government troops continued their military drive to recapture more rebel-controlled areas, a defence ministry spokesman said Sunday.
Air force gunships strafed rebels on Saturday in Mantahi , Mannar , 320 kilometres north of the capital killing at least 10 rebels and wounding an unspecified number, the spokesman said. Ground troops supported the operation, with three soldiers killed and 10 wounded.
In a separate operation in the Vavuniya district, 240 kilometres north of the capital, 13 rebels and three soldiers were killed in separate confrontations on Saturday, the spokesman said. Four soldiers were wounded by a mine. Four more rebels were killed in separate incidents.
The clashes came as the government was due Monday to conduct local elections in parts of the eastern province which the military recaptured from the rebels over a year ago.
Elections to select 101 members to nine local councils in Batticaloa , 240 kilometres east of the capital, will be held under a tight security cover and a breakaway group of the rebels are being considered as favourites .
The government has declared that its main objective in military operations in the east and north has been to ensure that the people in the area get an opportunity to select their own representatives.
But in the east, the government has been accused of backing the rebel breakaway group known as the TMVP, enabling them to take control of the local councils in the eastern province.
Government troops launched a near one-year military campaign to recapture rebel-controlled areas in the east, and have now vowed to recapture the rebel-controlled areas in the north before the end of the year.
The government in January withdrew from a Norwegian backed cease- fire with the rebels.
Rebels renewed their attacks on the security forces three weeks after President Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected to power in mid November 2005. Since then more than 6,200 people have been killed, mainly in the north and east.