|Sri Lanka says captures Tamil Tiger "nerve centre"|
|Tuesday, 02 September 2008|
by: C. Bryson Hull
COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's military on Tuesday said it had captured a town that served as a "nerve centre" for separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, on a day that saw 48 killed and 57 wounded across the nation's northern frontline.The military announced the capture as the air force pounded rebel mortar bases near Nachikudah while troops pushed forward on the ground against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).Soldiers from the 57th Division "brought more than three-fourths of the LTTE's nerve centre Mallavi ... under their control on Monday evening," the government-run Media Centre for National Security said in a statement.
Pictures provided by the government showed troops surrounding a Sri Lankan flag at a building in Mallavi's centre, which the military said it raised in place of a Tamil Tiger flag. It also showed photos of a hospital it said was used as command centre.
The rebels could not be reached for comment."Even today they are sweeping the rest of the area," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said, adding that two rebels and one soldier were killed in Monday's fighting for the town.
Two soldiers were wounded, he said.Military analyst Iqbal Athas, based in Colombo, said the capture of Mallavi, taken together with other recent army advances near land the Tigers claim as a separate state for the ethnic minority Tamil people, was a portend for a new phase of the war.
"The fact the troops have gone into Mallavi shows they are now on the outer fringe of the heartland. How the future advance in the next few weeks is going to be is the critical question now for the rebels and the government," Athas said.
Two weeks ago, the military said it was within artillery distance of the Tigers' administrative seat of Kilinochchi, 328 km (204 miles) north of the capital Colombo and a symbolic target for the Sri Lankan government.Air and ground assaults on Monday on Tiger bunkers in Nachikudah, 18 km (11 miles) west of Mallavi on the coast, killed 26 rebels and wounded 18 while two soldiers died, he said.Fighting in three other locations on Monday killed 15 insurgents and wounded 32.
Two soldiers also died and at least three were wounded, Nanyakkara said.In January, the government officially threw out a ceasefire both sides had barely observed, and have laid out $1.5 billion (840 million pounds) to spend on a goal of eliminating the LTTE by the year's end.In recent weeks, the army, navy and air force have stepped up an offensive along a shifting frontline in the north of the Indian Ocean island nation with the aim of encircling the rebels and ending the war.
The LTTE, on United States, Indian and European terrorism lists, has been at war with the Sri Lankan government since 1983 in what is one of Asia's longest-running modern insurgencies.They say the Sinhalese ethnic majority, three-quarters of Sri Lanka's 21 million people, has used its control of the government to marginalise them since independence from Britain in 1948.
(Editing by David Fox)
(Courtesy : Reuters )
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
|< Prev||Next >|