Heavy fighting erupts in Sri Lanka’s north

November 7th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Nov 7 (IANS) Heavy fighting broke out in Sri Lanka’s north as Tamil Tigers gave fierce resistance to government troops trying to reach a highway that cuts across rebel territory, authorities said Friday.The ministry of defence said long hours of fighting Thursday close to Panikkankulam left scores of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres dead. Many guerrillas were also reported missing.

This is a fresh attempt by the military to take control of the highway that links the central town of Kandy to Jaffna in the northern tip, giving the Jaffna peninsula its only road link to the rest of the country.

The winding road lies partly in the LTTE-held region, giving the rebels a strategic stranglehold.

“The troops of the newly formed military formation, Task Force 3, advancing from northwest of Mankulam towards A-9 (highway), confronted the LTTE terrorists causing heavy damage to the enemy,” the statement said.

According to the defence ministry, the troops engaged in subsequent search operations found seven bodies of LTTE cadres along with a machine gun and a few assault riffles.

The ministry did not say anything about the losses the troops suffered. There was no immediate word from the LTTE.

The military is determined to capture the rebel’s “administrative capital” Kilinochchi. It says the troops are only a few kilometers from it.

Military experts say the fall of Kilinochchi would deal a major psychological blow to the Tigers, whose top leaders used to meet visiting diplomats in the northern town.

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 a quarter century. Thousands have died in escalating fighting since late 2005.

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