Sri Lanka steps up air raids as army-LTTE fight pitched battles

December 13th, 2008 - 6:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Dec 13 (IANS) The Sri Lankan Air Force Saturday carried out “a string of air strikes targeting LTTE battlefield fortifications” as advancing ground troops have been locked in pitched battles with Tamil Tigers on the outskirts of Kilinochchi, the rebels’ political power centre, during the past couple of days.Air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said the fighter jets had completed “six successful air raids” against targets of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), located south of Kilinochchi and west of Paranthan.

“These air raids were conducted from the morning (Saturday) in support of the advancing ground troops,” he said.

Fresh air raids have come at a time when the troops advancing in several directions were said to be operating on the outskirts of Kilinochchi town, 350 km north of here.

The defence ministry said Saturday the ground troops “are steadily approaching Kilinochchi from the west and the south”, after having captured Thursday yet another rebel stronghold of Thirumurikandy, located a few kilometers south of Kilinochchi.

“Heavy clashes prevailed in the area during the last couple of days as the terrorists gave heavy resistance to the soldiers marching in,” the ministry said.

In a separate report, the ministry said the troops advancing towards the rebels’ military heartland of Mullaitivu “are now entering into the Mullaitivu suburbs after successfully clearing away the LTTE hold in the Nagacholai forest reserve”.

There was no immediate reaction from the LTTE, which 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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