Sri Lanka says it seized key rebel town
Tue September 2, 2008 09:03 EDT .
- - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan soldiers seized a key rebel-held town Tuesday after 12 days of fighting, easing access to several other rebel strongholds, the military said.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said troops took control of Mallavi, which lies along an important northern road used by the rebels, and that its fall has opened up passage to other rebel locations.
Mallavi was also a key rebel ``administrative hub'' with offices and banks, he said. There are also offices of many foreign nongovernmental organizations, Nanayakkara said.
He said casualty details from the battles were not immediately available.
The military's success came a day after 43 rebels and four soldiers were killed in separate battles along the northern front, according to the military.
In the worst of Monday's fighting, troops captured six bunkers in the Nachchikuda area of Kilinochchi region, killing 26 rebels, the military said. Fighting in the area also killed two soldiers, it said.
Air force jets pounded a facility where the rebels stored mortar shells north of Nachchikuda on Tuesday morning, the military said.
Battles across the Welioya, Mullaittivu and Vavuniya regions killed another 17 rebels and two soldiers, the military reported.
The rebel-affiliated TamilNet Web site, citing unnamed Tamil Tiger officials, said at least seven soldiers were killed in the fighting at Nachchikuda.
With most communication cut with the northern areas, rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be reached for comment. Verification of the military claims was not possible because journalists are banned from the war zone. Both sides have been accused of exaggerating enemy casualties and underreporting their own.
The government says its troops have pushed deep into rebel-held territory, seizing key Tamil Tiger bases and towns that had long been under rebel control.
The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the country's ethnic minority Tamils after decades of marginalization at the hands of governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting on this Indian Ocean island.
Government officials have vowed to crush the rebels by the end of the year.Discuss this story
Published: Tue Sep 2 09:55:20 EDT 2008