Sri Lankan military seizes key Tamil stronghold
Sat November 15, 2008 07:25 EST .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lankan troops seized a rebel coastal stronghold Saturday, establishing a land link to the ethnic Tamil heartland on Jaffna peninsula in a key victory against Tamil Tiger separatists, the country's president said. Sri Lankan authorities have long claimed that the rebels have smuggled in arms, explosives and other supplies from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, separated from Sri Lanka - 's northwestern coast by the narrow Palk Strait.
Tamil Nadu is home to some 55 million Tamils who have family and cultural ties with the Tamils in Sri Lanka - .
Nanayakkara also said the rebels will no longer be able to target troops stationed in the peninsula with artillery.
Retired army commander Jerry de Silva said the capture of Pooneryn will help government troops open up a new front in their bid to capture Kilinochchi, the rebels' de facto capital.
The government's original plan to seize Kilinochchi has not worked, with troops who have closed in on the town locked in ground battles for weeks, he said.
``It will be tough going to reach Kilinochchi, they are not going to give that up so easily after fighting for so many years,'' he said.
Rebel officials could not be contacted for comment because most communication lines to guerrilla territory have been severed.
The government has vowed to crush the rebels and end their decades-old separatist campaign.
The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for the country's ethnic minority Tamils, who have suffered marginalization by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.Discuss this story
Published: Sat Nov 15 10:22:53 EST 2008