COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka staged provincial elections amid high security Saturday as troops pushed deeper into rebel territory in the island's north in fresh fighting that has left 26 dead, officials said. Two out of the nine provinces on the island were voting to elect the highest level of local government in the regions, officials said, adding that more than 25,000 police had been deployed to guard polling booths. The provinces going to the polls -North Central and Sabaragamuwa - are not hit by fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels, but the government has turned the vote into an unofficial referendum on its military strategy. On the eve of voting, the defence ministry announced troops captured two strategic towns from the Tamil Tigers as they closed in on the rebels' political capital of Kilinochchi in the north. The ministry said Saturday a total of 24 Tiger rebels and two soldiers were killed in fresh fighting on Friday across the island's north where the military is keeping up pressure on the guerrillas along at least four fronts. With the fall of Thunukkai and Uyilankulam, the military was just 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) south of Kilinochchi, the centre of the de-facto state run by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the ministry said. There was no immediate comment from the Tigers about the military push and the casualties claimed by the security forces, but the guerrillas earlier this week tacitly admitted the military was advancing into their areas. The few international aid agencies operating inside rebel-held territory reported that over 112,000 people had been driven out of their homes within guerrilla-held territory as a result of fighting in the past two months. President Mahinda Rajapakse announced Tuesday troops were on a final push to dismantle the LTTE's de-facto state in the north after the military ejected the rebels from the east in July 2007. Tens of thousands have died on both sides since the rebels began fighting in 1972 for an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the majority Sinhalese island. Defence ministry figures show security forces have killed 6,044 Tiger rebels since January. The ministry says 564 soldiers have died during the same period. Independent verification of the tolls is impossible as the army does not allow journalists or human rights groups to visit front lines. Colombo has scrapped a truce and poured a record 1.5 billion dollars into this year's war effort in what it says is an all-out bid to crush the rebels.