Colombo, Sri Lanka (BBN) – At least 44 Tamil Tiger rebels and two security forces were killed in fresh fighting in the country’s restive northern region, the military said on Monday.

Sri Lankan troops advanced into territory held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at least three fronts in the Wanni region on Sunday, military officials confirmed.

The figures raise to 5,745the number of rebels killed by troops since January, while 522 soldiers have died in action over the same period, according to the defense ministry statistics.

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

The LTTE rebels have been battling for an independent homeland since 1972 in an ethnic conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

BBN/SI/SI/AD-11August08-11:10 PM