In the same period 399 security personnel have died in combat, according to the defence ministry.

The Sri Lankan army has been fighting for months over territory around the Tigers' stronghold in the north.

In the latest infantry clashes, army troops killed 11 fighters in Vavuniya
while separate fighting in the nearby Mannar district left six fighters and
three soldiers dead, an official said speaking on condition of anonyymity.

Nine fighters were killed and 33 wounded after clashes in Jaffna and Welioya, he said.

Rasiah Ilanthirayan, a rebel spokesman, could not immediately be reached for

It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because
journalists are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting
takes place.

Each side commonly exaggerates its enemy's casualties while playing down its own.

The government has promised to defeat the LTTE by the end of this year.

The Tigers have strongly resisted and halted some military advances and diplomats and other observers say the army has faced more resistance than it expected.

Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for
minority Tamils who have been marginalised by successive governments
controlled by majority Sinhalese.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the decades long conflict.