Lanka says 147 killed as battle rages for key LTTE-held town

November 24th, 2008 - 6:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Nov 24 (IANS) At least 120 Tamil Tiger rebels and 27 government soldiers were killed and several more wounded on both sides as a fierce battle continued to rage on the outskirts of a key rebel-held town in the north of the country, the Sri Lankan defence ministry said Monday. Troops were “steadily advancing” from three directions towards the rebels’ ‘political capital’ Kilinochchi, located about 350 kilometres north of here, since the past few days and have “laid siege to the symbolic LTTE stronghold” despite heavy resistance, the ministry said.

It said that the advancing troops “were able to breach the LTTE held earth bund around the Kilinochchi built up from the north of Adampan area at three locations”.

Admitting that its forces deployed in Adampan and Puthumurippukulam “came under massive LTTE counter attack since Sunday evening”, the defence ministry claimed the troops “withstood the LTTE counter attack successfully and are now consolidating their positions”.

“According to latest battlefield reports, 27 soldiers have made their ultimate sacrifice for the motherland while 70 others suffered injuries during the battle. Among the injured, 35 have sustained only minor injuries”, it said.

A few other soldiers were separated from their units and have not been able to rejoin them so far, it added.

The ministry said intercepted radio transmissions of the LTTE reveal that rebels have suffered heavy deaths and casualties in their unsuccessful counter attack. “Over 120 LTTE cadre have been killed and 80 others injured in the Kilinochchi area since Sunday morning,” it said.

According to the defence ministry, its troops have established their position just a few hundred meters short of the A-9 road, immediate south of the built up area of the town and the LTTE “has marshalled their final reserves to the battlefront to save their symbolically important stronghold.”

Meanwhile, the pro-LTTE Tamilnet website quoting LTTE sources in Wanni claimed that at least “43 Sri Lankan Army (SLA) soldiers were killed and more than 70 wounded in the latest fighting that broke out at Nalloor on Pooneryn-Paranthan road”, lying west of Kilinochchi.

“The fighting went on amid pouring rain and floods. The stiff fighting by the Tigers pushed back the troops in the direction of Pooneryn”, it claimed.

It also claimed that the Tigers recovered the bodies of eight soldiers, but did not give the details of the losses they had sustained.

Notably, it is for the first time that the LTTE tacitly admitted that the advancing government forces had taken the strategically important town of Pooneryn and that heavy fighting was taking place on the outskirts of Kilinochchi.

The LTTE last week lost its strategic strongholds of Pooneryn in the western coast and Mankulam in southern end of areas under its control nearly after a decade, as it prepared to commemorate its fallen cadre in late November. The annual week-long event ends with an speech by LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, who will turn 54 November 26.

The LTTE has been fighting to carve out a separate state in the northeast for a quarter century now. Thousands have died in escalating fighting between the army and the LTTE since late 2005.

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