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Last updated: 21 December, 2008 - Published 12:08 GMT
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'Heavy fighting' near Kilinochchi

Sri Lanka soldiers
Military authorities deny LTTE claims that nearly 60 soldeirs were killed
There's been more heavy fighting in northern Sri Lanka between government forces and Tamil Tiger guerrillas near the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi.

There are reports that the rebels have claimed to have killed at least sixty soldiers in a battle, but the military has said twelve were dead and twelve more missing.

The battle took place to the south of Kilinochchi when Tamil Tiger fighters attacked troops on an offensive to try to take the town.

Military denies

The website, Tamilnet, quoted rebel leaders as saying they had killed at least sixty soldiers and forced the army to retreat.

But the military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara put the loses at twelve soldiers dead and twelve more missing. He said the Tigers attack had been repulsed and they had suffered heavy casualties.

Kilinochchi map
Both parties admit that heavy fighting has taken place near Kilinochchi

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government has been predicting the imminent capture of Kilinochchi for months.

It is a key symbolic target of an operation to crush the rebels.

In the town the Tigers had assembled the trappings of the independent state they want for the ethnic Tamil minority; political offices, courts and police headquarters.

The rebels are putting up stiff resistance to defend it and both sides say they are inflicting heavy losses.

Meanwhile, the ministry of defence has claimed soldiers captured, from the rebels, the village of Nedunkerni a key crossroads in the north east of the island.

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