|Sri Lanka army seizes camp, says rebels boxed in|
|Monday, 19 January 2009|
By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Soldiers captured a Tamil Tiger camp and a factory as government forces pushed the separatist rebels into a shrinking enclave in Sri Lanka's war-ravaged north, the military said Sunday.
A defense ministry statement said soldiers seized "a highly fortified camp" in the village of Maruthampuvel in the rebels' last stronghold of Mullaittivu on Saturday.
It did not provide details of casualties, but said soldiers found eight bodies of rebel fighters killed in fighting elsewhere in the region.
Meanwhile, army chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka speculated that the rebels' reclusive leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, may have fled the country by sea or could be hiding among the civilian population in the north.
Fonseka told reporters Saturday that troops have boxed the rebels into a 174-mile-square (450-kilometer-square) area and that they expected to capture the entire region soon.
The military has vowed to destroy the rebel group this year. Government forces in recent weeks have captured the guerrillas' de facto capital of Kilinochchi.
On Saturday, soldiers captured a rebel boat-manufacturing factory near Maruthampuvel where troops found two fast attack vessels and seven small boats used by rebels for suicide attacks, the statement said.
The Tamil Tigers have a naval wing that rams small vessels packed with explosives into government naval ships in suicide attacks.
Rebel spokesmen could not be contacted for comment because communication to the north has been severed.
With reporters banned from the war zone, Sri Lanka's media must rely largely on government and rebel statements for information about the war.
Meanwhile, the pro-rebel Web site TamilNet reported that an army artillery attack on a rebel-held village in Mullaittivu killed four civilians Saturday.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara denied the rebel claim and said the military attacks only identified rebel positions.
Human rights groups have warned that casualties among civilians living in the shrinking pocket of rebel territory are likely to mount as the government closes in on the insurgents.
Aid groups estimate 250,000 civilians remain in the war zone.
The rebels have been fighting since 1983 to establish an independent state for minority Tamils, who have suffered marginalization at the hands of successive governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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