COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The Sri Lankan Defense Ministry on Friday claimed at least 16 Tamil Tiger rebels were killed in clashes with government security forces.
Those killed in the fighting in the Indian Ocean island nation's troubled north included two women, the Press Trust of India reported quoting the government.
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for years for a separate homeland for the Tamil-speaking minority in the predominantly Buddhist country. Violence has surged in recent months in the country, resulting in the deaths of dozens of people.
Separately, a Sri Lankan government-owned publication claimed the Tamil Tigers were attempting to smuggle out their elusive leader Velupillai Prabhakaran out of the country for treatment for his injuries he reportedly suffered in an air raid last month. The Tamil Tigers have denied the reports of injury to their leader.
The report also claimed 116 of the 200 guards protecting Prabhakaran had died in recent attacks by the Sri Lankan air force, PTI reported.