School attack

Ilanthiraiyan also said the army "advanced 2.5km into our territory in an offensive, firing artillery and multi-barrel rockets and using battle tanks. We have recovered five bodies of Sri Lankan army soldiers".

Timeline

Sri Lanka's civil war

Two days earlier the army had accused the rebels of a similar attack that hit a school in northeast Sri Lanka, killing a teacher, a schoolboy and three other civilians near the school. Ten pupils were also wounded.

The military said the Tigers continued to fire artillery further north in the neighbouring district of Trincomalee on Saturday, and said two soldiers were killed and 30 injured in retaliatory strikes.

"They were firing at our villages at a heavy rate. It is a possibility if they say IDPs were killed. We don't know," said Major Upali Rajapakse, a senior co-ordinator at the Media Centre for National Security.

Crackdown

"We were retaliating at their gun positions. If IDPs were killed, then they were keeping civilians as human shields. If they say IDPs were killed, it is their fault."

Aid workers said that about 50 refugees had reached the town of Kantale on Saturday morning, but the military had since closed access routes.

The fighting broke out after Mahinda Rajapakse, the president, introduced anti-terrorism laws this week in a crackdown on the Tigers and their supporters, after a failed suicide attack on his brother, Gotabhaya, who is his defence secretary.