|Sri Lanka claims capture of rebel fortifications|
|Thursday, 18 December 2008|
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan forces captured critical Tamil Tiger fortifications protecting the rebels' de facto capital amid days of heavy clashes in the north, the government said Thursday.
The seizure of the northwestern section of a 17-kilometer-long earth berm and ditch barrier around Kilinochchi could help clear the way for a final assault on the town and force the rebels to seek refuge in the rapidly shrinking area under their control in the northeast.
Other sections of the lengthy fortification remain in rebel hands.
The military has claimed for weeks that Kilinochchi's fall was "imminent," yet heavy rains and fierce resistance from the rebels has kept government forces from taking the town.
A coordinated offensive against the town Tuesday sparked hours of fierce fighting, with the rebels claiming to have killed 170 soldiers, while the government said 120 rebels and 25 soldiers were killed. Both sides routinely exaggerate enemy casualties and underreport their own.
Independent observers are barred from the war zone, making it impossible to verify battlefield reports released by either side.
Fighting continued to rage across the front lines Wednesday, with troops in the Kilinochchi district launching a series of attacks, the government said. Forces in the areas recovered the bodies of four dead rebel fighters on Wednesday, the military said in a statement. The two sides also fought in the Mullaittivu district, where soldiers recovered the body of one rebel fighter, the military said.
The rebels also pounded army troops based along the northern front lines in the Jaffna peninsula with mortar shells, the military said. In line with recent army policy, it did not say how many soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting in the north.
With most communication to the north cut off in recent months, the rebels could not be reached for comment.
The Tamil Tigers began fighting in 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils who have suffered marginalization by successive governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.
The government has vowed to crush the rebels and last year forced them from their strongholds in eastern Sri Lanka. However, violence has flared in that region in recent weeks, leading to concerns the rebels might be regrouping there.
In the eastern town of Vakarai, two soldiers were wounded Wednesday in a rebel grenade attack, the military said.
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 July 2009 )|
|< Prev||Next >|