Military: 21 combatants killed as fighting rages across northern Sri Lanka

Soldiers and Tamil separatists fought gunbattles across embattled northern Sri Lanka, leaving 19 insurgents and two soldiers dead, the military said Monday. Troops killed 10 Tamil Tiger rebels in confrontations in three villages in the Vavuniya district on Sunday, just south of rebel-held territory, a defense ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak the media. One soldier was also killed. Separate battles in nearby Mannar district left eight insurgents and one soldier dead, and another rebel was killed on the northern Jaffna peninsula, the official said. Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment. It is impossible to independently verify the military's claim because access to the area is restricted. Both sides often exaggerate their enemies' casualties while undercounting their own.