Moulana said by telephone from the eastern Batticaloa district: "Our information was that there were between 80 to 100 LTTE cadres at the camps and 45 to 65 managed to escape. Our commanders have confirmed that 35 Tigers were killed."


The Sri Lankan military confirmed the attack. A senior military official said the army received information from its intelligence officers that an attack had taken place.

Rasiah Ilanthirayan, a spokesman for the LTTE, however, said no Tiger fighters were killed, and only four were wounded in the attack.


"They were stopped before they could reach the camps and I can confirm that none of our cadres died," he said by the telephone from his headquarters in Kilinochchi.


Moulana also said that two Karuna fighters were wounded in the attack on the Thoppigala jungle camp, a large Tamil Tiger training base. Two other smaller camps in the area were also overrun, he said.


Both factions often exaggerate their battle successes or hide their losses. There was no way to reconcile the conflicting reports.


Military operations


In other developments, the Sri Lankan air force bombed an LTTE position and destroyed a Tiger artillery position in Vakarai, one of the last big rebel-held areas on the eastern coast.


Another raid was carried out on a Sea Tiger base in the nearby Pudukudiyirippu area, the military said in a statement.


Fighting between the LTTE, which wants a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in the north and east of the island, has intensified in recent weeks, despite a truce declared in 2002.


Factional fighting


Karuna and thousands of other renegade cadres broke away from the LTTE in 2004. Karuna was the rebels' most senior military commander and led several large assaults.


The faction broke away after disputes over political strategy. Karuna also accused the mainstream rebels, based mainly in the country's north, of sending his eastern-based cadres to battle fronts more often than the northern fighters.


The mainstream Tamil Tigers have accused the government of helping the Karuna faction, an issue that has been a thorn in relations between the government and the Tigers. The military has denied the accusation.