|Sri Lanka troops in striking distance of rebel capital|
|Friday, 22 August 2008|
Source: Reuters(Recasts with capture of rebel-held towns)
COLOMBO, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan troops on Friday captured two Tamil Tiger-held towns, placing the separatist rebels' de facto capital within artillery distance, the military said. It said it captured Tunukkai town, a major logistics area for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and Uyilankalum in the northern district of Mullaitivu. "With the capture of these areas, we can take forward our heavy weapons like artillery into range of Kilinochchi," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.
The ground advance came after an air strike to destroy a supply base in Kilinochchi, and helicopter assaults on bunkers elsewhere in the rebels' northern stronghold on Friday.
The military said ground troops also killed 24 rebels and wounded 40, part of a campaign this year to force a military solution to the LTTE's 25-year insurgency. Four soldiers died and 14 were wounded during the same battles.
Death tolls are difficult to verify because both sides distort the figures to their advantage and the military has closed off the war zones to outside observers. Since the official scrapping of an often-ignored ceasefire in January, the Sri Lankan government has sent air, land and sea power to try to encircle the rebels in their northern strongholds of Jaffna, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.
The rebels, who are fighting for the creation of an independent state for the ethnic minority Tamil people in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, could not be reached for comment.
The war has killed at least 70,000 people. So far this year, according to a compilation of military data, 5,924 rebels have been killed against the loss of 787 soldiers.
(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Bryson Hull and David Fogarty)
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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