Sri Lankan troops infiltrated separatist Tamil rebel territory in the embattled north and blew up a car, killing a top rebel intelligence official and three others who were inside, a pro-rebel Web site reported yesterday.
The roadside blast that killed Shanmuganathan Ravishankar, also known as Colonel Charles, took place on Saturday in northern Mannar district, TamilNet said. Ravishankar was in charge of the rebels' ground troop intelligence, the report said.
A Defense Ministry official said the military had not targeted Ravishankar with a bomb, and that he could have been killed in a number of clashes with soldiers on Saturday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The military earlier reported it killed at least 36 Tamil Tiger rebels in skirmishes in the north on Saturday, just days after the government officially withdrew from a 2002 ceasefire with the rebels.
Troops destroyed four bunkers in the Nagarkovil and Muhamalai areas of Jaffna peninsula, killing six guerrillas, the Defense Ministry said.
Separately, soldiers attacked two bunkers in Mannar district's Adampan village and exchanged artillery rounds with the rebels, killing 10 of them, the ministry said.
In Parappaankandal village, also in Mannar, soldiers overran six rebel bunkers and killed 10 guerrillas, the ministry said in a statement.
Ten more rebels died on Saturday in clashes in three villages bordering Mannar, the statement said. Nine soldiers were wounded.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan was not available to comment on the military's claims. It was not possible to obtain independent confirmation of the clashes because journalists are not allowed in the conflict areas.
Both sides often release inflated casualty figures for their opponent while lowering their own.
More than 70,000 people have been killed since the rebels began fighting in 1983 for an independent state for the ethnic Tamil minority, claiming discrimination by the Sinhalese majority.