Sri Lanka gunbattles, blast kill 13
( Reuters ) - Sri Lankan soldiers killed seven Tamil Tiger rebels in clashes in the north of the island, the military said on Saturday, adding it lost three of its men in the fighting.
Three civilians were also killed in a landmine blast in the eastern district of Batticaloa, blamed on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighting for a separate homeland for minority ethnic Tamils.
The overnight clashes follow a new offensive launched by the Sri Lankan military to drive out the rebels from the northwest Mannar area, after evicting them from jungles in the east of the island.
"The military killed five terrorists in a confrontation in Vavuniya on Friday," said a spokesman for the Media Centre for National Security, adding three soldiers were also killed in the fighting in the northern district.
Soldiers killed another two rebels who were trying to infiltrate a defence line in Jaffna in the north, he said.
The LTTE were not immediately available for comment.
About 70,000 people have been killed since the civil war erupted in 1983 and hundreds of thousands are displaced.