LTTE ‘capital’ within our firing range: army chief (Lead)

September 25th, 2008 - 10:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Sep 25 (IANS) Sri Lankan Army chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka Thursday said soldiers were steadily approaching Kilinochchi, the “political capital” of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and that the troops would attack it next week.”Kilinochchi is within the firing range of our troops and we will fire the first shot on (it) next week,” Army Commander Fonseka said at a book launch ceremony here Thursday.

Claiming the troops were currently operating only about four to five kilometres away from the Kilinochchi town, located about 350 km north of here, the army chief said the elusive rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was struggling to cope with the evolving situation.

“Our military campaign won’t stop until we liberate our motherland from the LTTE,” Fonseka added.

The military is determined to capture Kilinochchi and the defence experts say it would deal a major blow to the LTTE militarily and psychologically, as it would corner the rebels to operate only in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district.

The UN and other aid workers moved out of the rebel-held areas to the nearby places last week on the request of the government, citing security reasons. Thousands of civilians have already moved from Kilinochchi deeper into the rebel-held areas in the north.

Sri Lankan Air Force claimed Thursday that a radar point of the Tamil Tiger rebels was damaged in a night air attack Wednesday by the Russian-built MI-24 gunship helicopters in the north.

The LTTE has been fighting against the Sri Lankan state to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the island for the past three decades.

Over 5,000 people have been killed and several thousands faced displacement due to fresh escalation of violence since December 2005.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is waging a “fight-to-finish” campaign against the LTTE, reiterated his government’s position at the UN General Assembly in New York Wednesday that his ruling coalition “cannot and will not permit undermining of the territorial integrity of the sovereign UN member state of Sri Lanka and the division of its territory”.

“Our government would only be ready to talk to this illegal armed group (LTTE) when it is ready to commit itself to decommissioning of its illicit weapons and dismantling of its military capability, and return to the democratic fold,” Rajapaksa, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said in his UN speech.

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