AFP - At least 420 Tamil Tiger rebels were killed in three days of clashes in northeast Sri Lanka, the military said on Sunday, as troops moved to wipe out the guerrillas after decades of conflict.
Security forces won control of the village of Puthukkudiriruppu where the bodies of 250 rebels were found on Sunday alone, spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.
"We have recovered 420 bodies in the past three days," Nanayakkara said, adding that the Tigers had now been pushed into a 20-square kilometre (eight square mile) no-fire zone designated by the government.
There was no immediate comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have admitted losing territory to advancing government forces in the coastal district of Mullaittivu.
The remaining LTTE fighters were "now facing total annihilation as the soldiers are engaged in man-to-man combat against them in the last terror pocket," the defence ministry said in a separate statement.
The Tigers have been encircled for months in a small area of jungle by government troops who appear close to ending the separatists' long campaign for a Tamil homeland.
"The Tigers don't have much ground now. They are in the safe zone that we declared and in the periphery," Nanayakkara said, adding that security forces had suffered slight casualties during the battles.
Tens of thousands of civilians would soon be rescued from the no-fire zone, army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka was quoted as telling the state-run Sunday Observer.
Concern for the non-combatants has mounted, with international calls for a pause in the fighting to allow them to escape but the Sri Lankan government has refused to consider any truce until the rebels surrender.