The military says a fierce battle that erupted in northern Sri Lanka has killed 52 rebels and 38 soldiers.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara initially said 15 soldiers were killed in the battle but raised the death toll to 38 several hours later.

The deaths make the clash Wednesday on the northern front of Muhamalai one of the most deadly for soldiers in recent years.

The government and Tamil Tiger rebels have been fighting a civil war for 25 years.