Sri Lanka bombs major rebel northern defense line
Sun November 16, 2008 00:13 EST .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's air force pounded the Tamil Tiger rebels' main northern defense line Sunday, a day after government forces dismantled the last rebel stronghold on the island's west coast, the military said.
Fighter jets bombed the Tamil separatists' defense line in the Muhamalai area of the Jaffna peninsula, north of the rebels' de facto state early Sunday, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara.
He said the jets also hit rebel artillery and mortar positions in retaliation for rebel shelling of soldiers on Saturday. Nanayakkara said details of damage and casualties were not available immediately.
On Saturday, the military announced it had dismantled the last rebel defense on the island's west coast and secured a land route to government-held Jaffna in a key victory against the guerrillas.
The military has had no land link to the northern peninsula for more than a decade, forcing the government to depend on boats and aircraft for access. The main highway to the peninsula remains under rebel control.
Nanayakkara said the peninsula's main military base no longer falls within the rebel artillery range because of Saturday's gains. Nearly 40,000 soldiers are believed to be housed on the base.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a televised speech on Saturday hailed the military's triumph and urged the rebels to lay down their arms and surrender.
It was not possible to contact rebel officials for comment because most communication lines have been severed. Independent accounts are difficult to obtain from the battlefield because journalists are barred from the war zone.
The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for the country's ethnic minority Tamils, who have suffered marginalization by ethnic Sinhalese-controlled governments.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.Discuss this story
Published: Sun Nov 16 01:16:05 EST 2008