Heavy fighting as military inches towards LTTE strongholds

October 4th, 2008 - 8:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Oct 4 (IANS) Fierce fighting broke out Saturday between the government troops and the Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka’s restive north as the military claimed to be closing in on the rebels’ “administrative capital”. The defence ministry Saturday evening claimed at least 11 guerrillas of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were killed and 21 wounded when the advancing troops “confronted elements of the LTTE head-on during their forward push into the main garrison township Kilinochchi”.

Kilinochchi town, 350 km north of here, is known as the rebels’ “administrative capital”.

The ministry said the Russian-built MI-24 gunship helicopters provided close air cover to the ground troops which “continued neutralising identified LTTE fortifications, gathering points, and artillery and mortar launching pads with multi-pronged heavy gun attacks”.

“The 4th Sinha Regiment infantrymen have now marched and positioned two kilometres within the southern perimeters of the Kilinochchi town, forcing a probable defeat to the LTTE,” the ministry said.

It, however, did not say anything about the damages the army suffered in the clashes.

The Sri Lankan Army is celebrating its 59th anniversary and the “army day” Oct 10, one of the most prominent events in their calendar.

There was no word from the LTTE regarding the latest fighting in Kilinochchi, but reports say the civilians in and around the Kilinochchi town have moved eastwards deep into the rebel-held territories.

The first UN food convoy, carrying 600 metric tonnes of food items for not less than 200,000 war displaced civilians, reached the rebel-held areas Thursday and another convoy of food and essentials is expected to leave next week.

The military is determined to capture Kilinochchi soon and 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 LTTE has been fighting against the army to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern part of the island for the past three decades.

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