|Sri Lanka troops take two more towns from Tigers: defence ministry|
|Monday, 17 November 2008|
COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops on Monday captured two more strategic towns from Tamil Tiger rebels following fierce fighting in the north of the island, the defence ministry said.
Security forces entered the town of Mankulam, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the de facto Tamil Tiger political capital of Kilinochchi, government defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said.
Government troops battling to dismantle the rebels' mini-state also seized Kumalamunai, a town just south of the key Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) base of Mullaittivu, situated on the northeast coast.
"The Task Force Three of the army went into Mankulam junction this morning and they are now consolidating in the town," Rambukwella told AFP. "This morning we also captured Kumalamunai in Mullaittivu district."
Helicopter gun ships were deployed to attack suspected Tamil Tiger targets and to support ground troops advancing on the guerrillas along a broad front in the north, the ministry said.
It said troops had also cut off a stretch of the Mankulam-Oddusudan road that leads to the main military bases of the Tamil Tigers along the north-eastern coast of Mullaittivu district.The Sri Lankan military said on Saturday it had taken another key town, Pooneryn, on the northern edge of the mainland.
"Mankulam is psychologically a very important place for us to re-establish because nine years ago the army lost it. The same with Pooneryn," said Rambukwella, who is also a cabinet minister.
The minister did not give casualty figures, but added that a multi-pronged offensive to take Kilinochchi, the political headquarters of the Tigers, was under way.
The LTTE, meanwhile, said they had beaten back an offensive against their frontlines at Muhamalai on the Jaffna peninsula in the far north of the island.
"Twenty Sri Lanka army soldiers were killed and at least 80 wounded in the fighting," the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website reported, without giving rebel casualties.
Sri Lankan authorities have restricted access to the embattled areas for journalists as well as for most aid workers, making claims by the two sides impossible to independently verify.
The Sri Lankan government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the LTTE in January.
UN and other aid organisations estimate that about 230,000 civilians are still living in rebel-held territory in the north where fighting is concentrated.
Neighbouring India, which expressed concern for the safety of ethnic Tamils trapped inside the war zone, announced Monday that it had sent a shipment of 1,680 tonnes of food and medicines.
Some 60 million Tamils in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu share close cultural and religious links with Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.
Tens of thousands have died in Sri Lanka since the LTTE launched an armed struggle in 1972 to carve out a homeland for minority Tamils in the majority-Sinhalese nation.
(Courtesy: Yahoo News)
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 July 2009 )|
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