LTTE garrison town captured by army: Sri Lanka (Lead)January 1st, 2009 - 12:29 pm ICT by IANS
Colombo, Jan 1 (IANS) Sri Lankan troops early Thursday captured the strategically important Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) garrison town of Paranthan, which is close to the rebel group’s political hub of Kilinochchi, the defence ministry said in a statement issued here. “Paranthan, the LTTE garrison town, was captured by Task Force-1 troops early this morning (Thursday) following hours of bitter fighting with the rebels,” the statement said.
The capture of Paranthan, located approximately 4.5 km north of Kilinochchi along the Jaffna-Kandy A-9 main highway and on the southern sector of another LTTE-stronghold of Elephant Pass, marks the dominance of security forces at the township after a decade.
Sri Lankan troops have been engaged in fierce fighting with the Tamil Tigers for several weeks as they advance from various directions towards Kilinochchi. The town, lying 350 km north of here, was considered the political capital of the LTTE till recently.
According to military sources, the battle for Paranthan began in the early hours of Tuesday when the troops backed by armour, artillery and aerial bombardment launched a concerted assault on the garrison town “while the army’s forward domination elements took on the well fortified LTTE resistance positions during surprise manoeuvres made behind enemy lines”.
They said that the LTTE resistances and counter-attacks “were outflanked” by the intense military armour attacks and concentrated artillery and mortar fire.
“LTTE fighting formations, mainly from the Imran-Pandiyan unit led by its Kilinochchi in-charge, had made successive attempts to gain lost ground only to be left with more casualties and damages,” a military official said.
“Troops have also cut off the vital access routes towards Paranthan along the A-9 highway from north and south, reportedly killing over 50 terrorists, while injuring twice as many numbers during the intense battles,” the defence ministry statement said.
Providing air cover to the ground troops, fighter jets and gunship helicopters carried out series of air raids on suspected LTTE positions during the past two weeks.
The military taking control of Paranthan and the adjoining areas is widely considered a major setback to the LTTE that has already lost vast tracts of lands, including the entire the coastal belt, to the advancing troops last year.
“The fall of Paranthan, the well-fortified LTTE garrison, has isolated the southern periphery of the Elephant Pass LTTE foothold and has also exposed the LTTE’s main fortification at Kilinochchi,” the defence ministry said, adding that the LTTE strongholds Muhamalai northwards “will also be untenable for the LTTE”.
Despite shrinking territories, the LTTE has been putting up heavy resistance against the advancing troops, slowing down the military progress.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week threatened to brand the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group if it did not allow Tamils living in its control to move to government-held areas with the dawn of 2009.
There was no immediate word on the Sri Lankan Army’s capture of Paranthan from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (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 in escalating fighting since late 2005.