COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Clashes between separatist guerrillas and army soldiers in northern Sri Lanka have left 17 rebels dead, the military said.

Troops killed five rebels near the government-controlled town of Oddusuddan, 160 miles northeast of the capital, Colombo, the Defense Ministry said Saturday.

Twelve guerrillas died in separate confrontations on Friday, the military said.

Independent confirmation was impossible because authorities barred journalists from the war zone.

Rebels are fighting for a homeland for the country's minority ethnic Tamils, who claim that the majority Sinhalese discriminate against them for jobs and schooling. More than 56,000 people have been killed in the 15-year-old war.