Strategic junction ahead of last LTTE stronghold captured: Sri Lanka (Lead)

March 17th, 2009 - 11:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, March 17 (IANS) Advancing Sri Lankan troops captured a strategically important junction lying ahead of the last stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels, the defence ministry said Tuesday.
Troops engaged “in the final phase of military offensive to free entire country from LTTE have marked a decisive milestone” by reaching the Irunapalai junction, a strategically vital junction in Puthukkudiyiruppu built-up area in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district,” it said.

“With the military capturing this junction, the LTTE activities along the Puthukkudiyiruppu-Putumathalan main road, which once remained the LTTE’s main supply route, and several link roads running across the Irunapalai junction will be further limited,” the ministry said.

The remaining area for the LTTE has further shrunk while opening safer escape passages “for innocent Tamil civilians who had been trapped by LTTE terrorists as a human shield in the government-declared no-fire-zone,” the defence ministry said.

“Troops are now engaged in further consolidating operations in the area,” it said.

The military earlier in the day said that at least 29 Tamil Tigers were killed and scores were wounded when fierce clashes broke out between the troops and the rebels in the island’s north.

The clashes have taken place in the eastern area of Irunapalai and Puthukkudiyiruppu in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district since Monday morning. The rebels are defending a land stretch of less than 35 square km.

“So far, 14 dead bodies of Tiger terrorists, 25 T-56 weapons, five LTTE-made mortar launchers, two I-com communication sets and two remote controllers have been recovered by troops from the area,” the military said.

The infantry personnel fighting their way deep into the rebel-held areas have also captured “one kilometre long LTTE earth-bund” in the area southeast of Puthukkudiyiruppu following the clashes Monday.

Meanwhile, the Army Headquarters has declared that “an estimated total of 42,855 civilians”, who had so far fled Tiger-dominated areas since March 2008, are housed in 22 different centres for displaced persons (relief villages) in northern Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna districts.

“The figure includes the displaced receiving treatment in hospitals outside the war-torn areas as of Monday noon,” it said.

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