A surprise attack by Tamil Tiger guerillas yesterday killed 29 Sri Lankan soldiers and left at least 35 rebels dead in the biggest battle on the island for more than three months, officials said. The fierce hand-to-hand fighting came during an operation by government security forces to smash through rebel fortifications in the eastern Trincomalee district. A military spokesman said troops were clearing roads of landmines several kilometres south of the port of Trincomalee when they were ambushed from jungle hide-outs. Troop reinforcements called to the area from two nearby military camps were caught in another hail of fire from about 500 rebels. 'The fight is over now. We have sent in additional reinforcements. The situation is under control,' the spokesman said. The spokesman said the previous heaviest casualty toll in a single battle was on March 23, again on the eastern side of the island, when 40 troops and 50 rebels were killed. The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam bases had been vacated amid the full force of troop firepower, backed by air force helicopter gunships, army commander General Rohan Daluwwatte said. Military sources said at least 400 well-trained LTTE guerillas had been holed up at two camps in eastern Vakurai and Vergal, south of Trincomalee. A two-storey building near the Vakarai camp equipped with satellite dish and communications antennae and reported to be the office of the LTTE's eastern leader, Sivagnanum Karikalan, had been captured by advancing troops on Sunday, military sources said. At least 25 rebels died in the fighting. Troops seized a large haul of medical supplies, food stocks and military equipment from the abandoned guerilla bases. Among other rebel positions captured were three bases north of Trincomalee, military sources said. The rebels, ousted from their northern Jaffna stronghold, had been regrouping their fighting units in the east and launching diversionary attacks on Sinhalese villages. The LTTE had also been stepping up attacks on military targets in the east, raising fears of a protracted rebel hit-and-run campaign there.