Colombo, December 13:

Sri Lankan army troops waged a series of attacks against Tamil separatists in the volatile north, killing 14 rebels, while a police officer was killed by a land mine, the military said today.

The fighting was part of a major escalation in attacks between the two sides along the front lines surrounding the Tamil Tigers’ de facto state in parts of the north. Government officials say they aim to crush the rebels in a bid to end more than two decades of warfare on this island.

In two battles yesterday, troops killed nine rebels in the Muhamalai area of the Jaffna peninsula, north of rebel-held territory, the military said in a statement today. The army killed four more rebels in two other attacks in the area, while another rebel was killed in a confrontation in the Mannar district south of rebel areas, the military said.

The violence — along with the previously announced deaths of nine rebels — brought the toll from yesterday’s fighting to 23 rebels killed, 18 of them in the Jaffna peninsula, according to military figures.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan disputed those figures, saying that only one rebel was killed in yesterday’s fighting in Jaffna.

In another violence, rebels today morning detonated a land mine alongside a major road in the north as a road clearing patrol passed, killing a police officer, said Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, the military spokesman.

The fighting came as Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi travelled to a peace conference of religious leaders in Jaffna.