Tamil Tigers killed during sea battle with Sri Lankan navy

Sri Lanka's navy sank 10 Tamil Tiger boats and killed at least 25 rebel sailors yesterday during a sea battle off the country's north-western coast, according to military sources.

The battle came as the military said 15 rebels and three soldiers had been killed during intense ground fighting. The rebels said they had killed 25 soldiers during a separate battle.

Fighting has escalated because of a resurgent government offensive deep in rebel-held territory. Troops have captured insurgent bases and threaten to overrun the Tigers' administrative capital at Kilinochchi.

The Tigers, meanwhile, said they had repelled a government offensive in the Kilinochchi district, deep in the rebel heartland, killing 25 soldiers. The military said 15 rebels were killed during another firefight.

Each side routinely exaggerates its enemy's casualties and underreports its own. Independent verification is not available, since journalists and independent observers are barred from the war zone. Since 1983, more than 70,000 people have died in the rebels' fight for an independent homeland.

In response to a series of attacks in Colombo and other towns far from the war zone, authorities have established a maze of roadblocks and checkpoints in the capital. Visitors from the north have been ordered to register with police.

With the fighting intensifying, police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera said yesterday that every Sri Lankan who moved to Colombo from the north in the past five years would have to re-register with police.

The order will affect more than 100,000 people, he said. The overwhelming majority of those are ethnic Tamils.

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