|Sri Lanka fighting spreads to key highway near Tiger HQ|
|Monday, 24 November 2008|
COLOMBO (AFP) – Helicopter gunships attacked Tamil Tiger rebel positions in northern Sri Lanka as battles shifted onto a key highway leading to the rebels' political capital, the defence ministry said.
Helicopters were deployed to pound rebel bunkers that make up the western defences of the town of Kilinochchi, the political headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the ministry said.
"Sri Lanka army offensive divisions... are now marching towards Kilinochchi built up in three frontiers," the ministry said. "Pitched battles are going on."
One of the columns was marching on Kilinochchi from the southern flank and heavy fighting raged along the main A-9 highway that runs through the six-kilometre (four-mile) length of the town, the ministry said.
Troops were engaged with Tiger rebels in the Therumurikandi area, 10 kilometres (six miles) south of the town centre, the ministry said, adding that guerrillas had built an earth barrier around Kilinochchi in a bid to block the military advance.
"The air raids were launched on Saturday evening in support of troops of the 57th division advancing towards Kilinochchi," a defence ministry official said.
The latest thrust came as the Tigers marked their "Heroes' Week."
Pro-rebel websites reported that the guerrillas were holding religious services as part of the commemoration of thousands of cadres killed in the drawn-out conflict.
The Tigers launched their separatist drive in 1972, while the first Tiger cadre was killed by government forces 10 years later on November 27, 1982.
The week of commemoration ends Thursday with a speech by their supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, who turns 54 on Wednesday.
The defence ministry has stopped releasing details of casualties among its own troops, but it is reporting heavy fighting in the north of the island with the guerrillas said to be offering stiff resistance.
Sri Lanka's government has vowed to take the Tiger political capital and dismantle the LTTE's mini-state.
Sri Lankan troops have been engaged in a massive offensive against the Tigers since the government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce at the start of the year.
Sri Lankan authorities have restricted access to the embattled areas for journalists as well as for most aid workers, meaning that claims by either side in the decades-old conflict are normally impossible to independently verify.
Tens of thousands of people have died in the LTTE's campaign for a separate homeland for the island's minority Tamils.
(Courtesy : Yahoo )
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 July 2009 )|
|< Prev||Next >|