|Sri Lankan military seizes key Tamil stronghold|
|Monday, 17 November 2008|
By KRISHAN FRANCIS, Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan troops dismantled the last rebel defense on the island's west coast Saturday, securing a land route to the northern peninsula in a key victory against Tamil Tiger separatists, the government said.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a televised speech hailed the capture of the town of Pooneryn and urged the rebels to lay down their arms and surrender, saying it would be the "greatest service" they could give the people living in areas of armed conflict.
Rajapaksa said the latest military success meant the troops were now able to access the previously isolated, government-controlled Jaffna peninsula by land, instead of depending on boats and aircraft.
The military has had no land link to Jaffna in the north for more than a decade, and the newly captured road gives soldiers an alternative to the main highway, which is still under rebel control.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said the peninsula's main military base no longer falls within the rebel artillery range.
The Tamil Tigers would no longer have access to the western coast, Nanayakkara said.
Nearly 40,000 soldiers are believed to be housed on the base, which is equipped with a runway and serves as the main logistics point to the peninsula.
Sri Lankan authorities have long claimed that the rebels have smuggled in arms supplies from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, separated from Sri Lanka's northwestern coast by the narrow Palk Strait.
Tamil Nadu is home to some 55 million Tamils who have family and cultural ties with Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamils.
Retired army commander Jerry de Silva said the capture of Pooneryn will help government troops open up an alternative front to attack the rebels' de facto capital, Kilinochchi, which has eluded the military for weeks.
Rebel officials could not be contacted for comment because most communication lines to guerrilla territory have been severed.
The government has vowed to crush the rebels and end their decades-old separatist campaign.
The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for the country's ethnic minority Tamils, who have suffered marginalization by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.
(Courtesy: Yahoo news)
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 July 2009 )|
|< Prev||Next >|