Sri Lanka captures last stretch of rebel-held coast (Lead)

May 16th, 2009 - 11:15 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, May 16 (DPA) The Sri Lankan security forces Saturday took the final strip of coast held by Tamil Tigers during the final phase of their offensive to defeat the guerrillas, a military official said.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have now been driven back to an area of less than one sq km in the northeast, a military spokesman said, and for the first time in the conflict the rebels have no access to the sea.

The military claimed that senior LTTE leaders, including its chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, remained in the rebel-held area.

Security forces advancing from different directions along the coast linked up at Kariyalamullaivaikkal village, 395 km northeast of Colombo, the officials said.

Meanwhile, civilians trapped in the war zone continued to flee by wading across a lagoon to enter government-controlled territory. On Friday, more than 10,000 civilians fled the area, and the government said it believes a similar number of people remained in there.

The LTTE has been fighting for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils for the past quarter century. Over 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far.

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