Lankan troops capture Kilinochchi railway station (Lead)

January 2nd, 2009 - 4:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Jan 2 (IANS) Fighting their way into the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) political capital Kilinochchi, the Sri Lankan military Friday captured the railway station in the well-fortified township, defence sources here said.By Friday noon, Kilinochchi, 350 km north of here, was “completely surrounded by troops” advancing from the northern, southern and western edges.

“Sri Lanka Army 57 Division troops now in the process of liberating Kilinochchi town have taken control over the Kilinochchi railway station a short while ago,” the defence ministry said in its afternoon update Friday.

It said troops had “beaten off” the fighting formations of the LTTE from the area in an intense battle early Friday.

The fall of Kilinochchi would mark the rebels’ biggest loss after the fall of the Jaffna peninsula 13 years ago.

It would mean a massive politico-military victory for the government, which had already flushed the rebels out of their former strongholds in the east in 2007.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to discuss with journalists in the afternoon the progress of the military operations in the northern battlefront, especially the latest developments vis-à-vis Kilinochchi.

In the morning, the military had announced that the fall of Kilinochchi was imminent, after capturing the adjoining townships of Paranthan and Iranaimadu in the early hours of Thursday.

The LTTE has no option but to “flee towards the jungle patches in Puthukuduyiruppu and Vishvamadu in the East of Iranaimadu tank as troops are aggressively advancing towards the heart of Kilinochchi in all fronts without leaving any room for the LTTE to operate there”, it stated.

President Rajapaksa had last week threatened to outlaw the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group if it did not allow Tamils living within its control to move to government-held areas with the beginning of 2009.

There was no immediate word from the LTTE regarding the fresh military claims, but the guerrillas in a statement Thursday night claimed that five civilians had been killed and 18 wounded in an air attack.

The LTTE has been fighting against the Sri Lankan government for a quarter century to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the island. Thousands have died since late 2005 in the escalating fight.

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