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Sri Lankan army captures strategic town

T V Sriram in Colombo | October 20, 2008 17:41 IST

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After smashing through main outer defences of the crucial city of Kilinochchi, Sri Lankan Army Monday captured Vannerikulam town and encircled Nachchikudha, the main sea Tiger base, after fierce fighting which left 33 soldiers dead.

Apparently, stepping up their offensive to capture LTTE [Images] headquarters, government troops overnight and this Monday morning launched a fierce offensive to capture the Vannerikulam town for which the Tigers put up a stiff resistance.

Another task force of the army got close to the biggest sea Tiger base in which 11 LTTE cadre were killed, defence ministry said.

The new offensive brought the army a step closer to capturing the militants' de facto capital of Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka [Images], the military said.

The fight for Vannerikulam village, west of Kilinochchi, was termed as challenging by the army as they had to overrun a massive earth barrier erected by the Tigers as anti-tank defence.

The changing of hands of the village could make the army's offensive towards the Tiger's headquarters easier.

Simultaneously, timing their attack on Nachchikudha with operations further west, the army encircled the last major sea tiger foothold on the northwestern coast.

"During these clashes on the weekend, 33 soldiers were reported killed in action, 48 injured and three others were reported missing," the defence ministry said in a statement.

But a pro-rebel website claimed that Tigers had allowed troops to advance to trap them under heavy fire.

The ministry said the troops were undertaking mopping up operations in Vannerikulam town with the defence ministry saying that the forces have now obtained total domination of the area after months of fighting.

"The sources said that the area would be declared fully liberated once the mop up operations are completed," the ministry said.

Meanwhile, troops operating on the Kilinochchi front are consolidating their new positions acquired after heavy fighting since Saturday, the officials said.

Troops of the 57 Division, breached the last LTTE defence south of Kilinochchi on Saturday from the east and the west of Akkarayankulam tank, the military said.

Both ground and radio monitoring sources reported heavy damages to the LTTE, it said. "Troops during clearing operations found remains of 11 LTTE cadres along with 7 T-56 riffles," it said.

Apart from the clearing operations in the Akkarayankulam area, 57 Division troops operating on the eastern flank of the Kilinochchi front attacked a group of tiger rebels in the area north of Kokavil Sunday morning.

Troops confirmed heavy damages to the rebels without suffering any casualties, the officials said.

Meanwhile, troops carried out their offensives in the general areas of the Vannerikkulam, Chinnakkonailai, Manniyakulam and Kunachakulam during the day and 12 soldiers sustained injuries during the operations due to mine explosions and LTTE mortar fire.

On the Vavuniya front, troops attacked group of LTTE cadres located in the Nallikulam, Palamoddai and Puttur areas during the daytime.

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