Sri Lanka steps up air raids after seizing rebel town

November 16th, 2008 - 2:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Nov 16 (IANS) Sri Lankan jets bombed suspected Tamil Tiger positions Sunday, a day after troops captured the last major naval bastion of the rebels on the west coast, military authorities said.The defence ministry said that the air force “pounded LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) positions in Muhamalai area in Jaffna at 6.45 this morning” in support of ground troops.

The authorities had earlier announced that troops backed by artillery and aerial fire captured the LTTE’s naval base at Pooneryn in the northwestern coast Saturday.

Sri Lanka has announced a week-long felicitation from Sunday to mark the victories of the security forces.

Army Chief Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka said the entire stretch of the road from Mannar in the northwest to Pooneryn south of Jaffna had been liberated after 20 years and the army had finally opened a badly needed land route to Jaffna peninsula.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, announced the capture of Pooneryn in a televised address and urged the LTTE “to lay down their weapons and come for talks”.

The LTTE is yet comment on the latest development in the northern battle front.

Pooneryn is known to be the last major LTTE naval point on the western coastal belt, from where the rebels in the past have used their long-range artillery and mortar guns to fire at military targets.

Analysts say the LTTE has lost Pooneryn as it prepares to commemorate its fallen cadres in the third week of November. The week-long event ends with an annual speech by LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The LTTE has been fighting to carve out a separate state in the northeast for a quarter century. Thousands have died in escalating fighting between the army and the LTTE since late 2005.

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