Military: Soldiers repel Tamil rebels' assault
Tue October 21, 2008 04:33 EDT .
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lankan army troops foiled a Tamil Tiger rebel attack on the government's defense line in the war-ravaged northern region, inflicting heavy damages to rebels, the military said Tuesday.
The assault came as government forces closed in on the rebels' administrative capital of Kilinochchi in a campaign aimed at routing the guerrillas and ending the 25-year-old civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people.
Tamil guerrillas launched the attack on the defense line in the Mullaitivu district, just south of Kilinochchi, on Monday evening, but soldiers foiled the rebel attempt, a military statement said.
The statement on Tuesday did not provide details of casualties, but said soldiers inflicted ``heavy damages'' to the rebels.
Separately Monday, advancing troops captured a half-mile (0.80-kilometer) stretch of territory, south of strategic Vannerikulam village in Kilinochchi, said the statement.
The military announced Monday that soldiers had seized Vannerikulam and moved a step closer to capturing the militants' de facto capital in north.
Government troops have made dramatic progress on the northern fronts in the past months, seizing a series of rebel bases and chunks of land, but the rebels have offered stiff resistance.
The battle for Vannerikulam village, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of the rebel capital, was especially difficult because the rebels had erected a six-mile (10-kilometer) -long dirt mound from which they had a clear view of the surrounding territory, the military said Monday in a statement.
Soldiers cleared the mound, the military said, but would not give more details.
Lakshman Hulugalla, the official in charge of the government's security information center, said that by seizing Vannerikulam, the troops had cut off a key rebel supply route. He said the capture would ease the military's advance into Kilinochchi, which has housed the rebel headquarters for the past 10 years.
Military analyst Susantha Seneviratne, a retired colonel, said capture of Vannerikulam could be helpful in troop deployment for a longer offensive, but it does not guarantee an easy path to Kilinochchi.
``It's not going to be easy,'' Seneviratne said, adding that the military's success depends upon reacting quickly to the rebels' moves. ``Daily, the situation changes.''
The military did not release any details on casualties on either of these battles, and it was not possible to contact rebel officials for comment because communication lines to the rebel territory have been severed.
The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for Sri Lanka's minority Tamils following decades of marginalization by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority.Discuss this story
Published: Tue Oct 21 07:36:01 EDT 2008