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17 killed in Sri Lankan heavy fighting
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The military in Sri Lanka said at least 15 rebels and two soldiers were killed in heavy fighting broke out between Tamil Tiger rebels and the government troops in the northern Jaffna peninsula Monday morning.

Officials from the Media Center for National Security said the Army launched an attack against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ( LTTE) rebels, killing 15 and injuring 30 at Nagarkovil in the Jaffna peninsula around 2:30 a.m. local time (2100 GMT).

Two soldiers were killed and nine were injured when the troops destroyed 24 rebels' bunkers in the battle.

Some 44 civilians have been killed by the rebels in a series of attacks in the southeast of the country since the government officially abandoned the six-year-old Norwegian backed ceasefire on Jan. 16.

Army Commander Sarath Fonseka and senior government leaders have predicted that the rebels would be crushed by the end of 2008.

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, which had been monitoring the truce since 2002, said Wednesday in a statement that it "is absolutely convinced that this complex conflict can not be solved by military means."

Analysts predict more violence in the island's separatist armed conflict in the aftermath of the government's decision to abrogate the truce.

Claiming discrimination at the hands of the Sinhala majority, the LTTE has been fighting the government since the mid-1980s to establish a separate homeland for the minority Tamils in the north and east.

(Xinhua News Agency January 21, 2008)

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