Troops capture fresh rebel-held territories in north: Sri Lanka

November 20th, 2008 - 12:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Nov 20 (IANS) The Sri Lankan army has captured the forward defensive positions of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the island’s north Thursday after fierce fighting, the defence ministry said. The soldiers, backed by artillery and mortars, advanced against the well-fortified LTTE bunker lines at Muhamalai and Kilaly areas in the northern Jaffna peninsula and captured them after a battle lasting several days, it said.

“Despite the stiff resistance, troops have made tactical advances while minimising casualties as LTTE terrorists were making their best efforts to protect the strategically important defence lines in Muhamalai and Kilaly,” the ministry said.

Muhamalai is located on the Kandy-Jaffna main highway connecting the Sri Lankan mainland to Jaffna on the island’s northern tip, while the Kilaly lagoon area is located west of Muhamalai.

Muhamalai, the northern most point of the rebel-held territories, had also been the entry/exit point for civilians to Jaffna and a series of fierce battles led to its closure in December 2006.

“Two LTTE mortar launchers have been destroyed while another two partially damaged in security forces’ artillery attack. LTTE vehicles carrying reinforcements to the area were also targeted,” the defence ministry said, claiming that “scores of LTTE cadre” were killed during the battle.

It, however, did not divulge the exact details of casualties suffered by both sides.

There was no immediate reaction from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) regarding the defence ministry’s claims.

The LTTE last week lost its strategic strongholds of Pooneryn on the western coast and Mankulam in the southern end of areas under its control after nearly a decade, as it prepared to commemorate its fallen cadre in the third week of November. The week-long annual event ends with a speech by LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

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

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