|Sri Lanka smells victory over Tamil rebel state|
|Thursday, 21 August 2008|
by: Amal Jayasinghe
Sri Lanka is on the verge of a major victory against Tamil separatists, officials say, in a high-risk military strategy to dismantle a de facto rebel state. President Mahinda Rajapakse announced that security forces will pursue a major offensive in the north of the island and capture Kilinochchi, the political capital of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)."The government would continue with the anti-terror drive until the north too is liberated, just as the east," the Daily News quoted the president as saying Tuesday night.
Rajapakse said he wanted to replicate the success of driving the LTTE out of the multi-ethnic Eastern Province in July last year by taking the bigger northern region, where the Tigers run their own affairs.He did not suggest a date but the prime minister said such success could be imminent."Our boys might even take Kilinochchi by August 23," Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake told a political rally on Monday.
"We are very close. Kilinochchi is not very far from our sight," he said.The Tigers seized Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (205 miles) north of capital Colombo in November 1999 following a counter attack that saw security forces lose vast tracts of land they had captured during 19 months of fighting."Unlike in the past, the army is now moving in smaller groups," said retired army brigadier general Vipul Boteju. "That is why they are more successful this time round."However, defence analysts who decline to be named noted that the current offensive was fraught with risks and the government could pay dearly.
Sri Lanka Police Special Task Force commandos perform an unarmed combat demonstration south of Colombo, August 18. Sri Lanka is on the verge of a major victory against Tamil separatists, officials say, in a high-risk military strategy to dismantle a de facto rebel state.
(AFP/Ishara S. Kodikara)
"The government has given the impression that Kilinochchi will fall and the Tigers will be defeated soon," an Asian diplomat said. "It is important to manage the expectations or the strategy could backfire."The victory fever comes with two provincial council elections due on Saturday. Officials say more local elections are likely later this year or early in 2009.There has been no direct comment from the LTTE about the latest military claims, but the rebels on Tuesday tacitly admitted they were losing ground.In their first public acknowledgement that government forces are making inroads, the Tigers said civilians had been forced to leave their homes because of the army's advance.
The LTTE, which has been fighting for a separate ethnic state since 1972, accused the military of shelling civilian settlements."Many of the internally displaced people are yet to receive temporary shelter and are thus still living under trees," the LTTE said.The government denied the claims and said the authorities were providing food and shelter to displaced civilians.
More than 112,000 people have been displaced in the past two months amid heavy fighting, aid agencies said last week. Security forces have reported heavy daily death tolls among the enemy in the north since fighting intensified after the government scrapped a truce in January. Security forces killed at least 25 guerrillas Tuesday for the loss of three soldiers, the defence ministry said. The figures raised to 5,985 the number of rebels the government claims it has killed since January.
The ministry, which blocks media access to the front lines and rebel areas, has acknowledged losing 556 soldiers in the same period.
(Courtesy : Yahoo News )
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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