Lankan troops retake villages close to Elephant Pass (Lead)

January 5th, 2009 - 9:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Jan 5 (IANS) Sri Lankan troops fighting their way northwards from the recently captured Tamil Tiger rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi Monday entered the southern end of Elephant Pass and took control of villages lying on the outskirts despite resistance from the rebels, defence ministry said here.Geared up after their latest success of capturing the politico-administrative town of Kilinochchi from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after a decade, the troops backed by armour, artillery and aerial bombardment were poised to retake the next major landmark of Elephant Pass, the southern-most LTTE stronghold in the Jaffna peninsula.

“Troops have gained total control over Kurinchattivu village located on the eastern bank of the Jaffna lagoon and entered Thamilamadam area this afternoon,” the defence ministry said Monday.

Kilinochchi town, which was captured by the advancing troops Friday, is located 350 km north of here. Elephant Pass, lying about 12 km away from the Kilinochchi on the Jaffna-Kandy main highway, is the isthmus to the northern Jaffna peninsula.

Claiming that the troops have fought series of heavy clashes with the rebels before taking control of these areas, it said that the fall of Kurinchattivu draws tactical advantage to the security forces “who are determined at flushing out the remaining LTTE fortifications in the Elephant Pass, Kilaly, Muhamalai and Nagarkovil areas”.

Thamilamadam, a fishing village, is located south of Jaffna lagoon.

“According to latest reports received from the battlefront, TF-1 troops are further pushing into the Elephant Pass while separate military fighting formations are marching eastwards at LTTE last bastion in Mullaitivu,” the defence ministry said.

On the Mullaitivu front, the troops Sunday forced their way into the strategically important Oddusuddan township, lying ahead of Mullaitivu town.

The LTTE captured former military garrison of Elephant Pass in April 2000 and it was then considered a major success for the rebels.

The fall of Elephant Pass and Muhamalai, the last LTTE strongholds lying some 20 km north of Elephant Pass on the main highway, would enable the military to open the Jaffna-Kandy A-9 main supply route for public and troops there.

The troops in Jaffna would no longer be relying on supplies through ships. The transport on ships was very costly for the military.

There was no immediate word from the LTTE, which 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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