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Sri Lanka Says 40 Rebels, 6 Soldiers Killed in Clashes

Sri Lankan military officials say clashes between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels in the country's troubled north have killed at least 40 guerrillas and six soldiers.

A military statement says the heaviest fighting occurred in Vavuniya district, where 19 rebels and three soldiers died.

A series of clashes in nearby Mannar killed 11 rebels and two government troops. The military says the other casualties came from confrontations in the Jaffna peninsula.

There has been no independent confirmation of the government's account of fighting since Saturday .

On Sunday, police in the north-central town of Anuradhapura found a powerful bomb in a crowded market and safely defused it, averting a possible disaster.

Fighting has escalated in recent months since the government officially withdrew from a 2002 cease-fire in January. The government says the rebels had been using the agreement to rearm and regroup.

Tamil Tigers are fighting for a Tamil homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. An estimated 70,000 people have died since the beginning of their bloody campaign in 1983.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.