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Sri Lankan troops tread closer to Prabhakaran

T V Sriram in Colombo | January 05, 2009 18:55 IST

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Moving to retake the last remaining bastions of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north, Sri Lankan troops on Monday reached the southern outskirts of strategically vital Elephant Pass after capturing a key town on the road to the rebels' coastal stronghold Mullaittivu, the military said.

Fresh from their takeover of LTTE [Images] administrative headquarters Killinocchi after 10 years, troops backed by helicopter gunships advanced further towards the LTTE pockets in the once rebel-dominated northern Sri Lanka [Images].

The troops of 58th Division captured the area southwards of the causeway along with the bridge in the A-9 road located south of the Elephant Pass after a series of heavy clashes with the rebels, the army said.

If the troops recapture the corridor, which was lost to the Tigers in 2000, a vital land link to Jaffna peninsula will be re-established.

Lankan troops also succeeded in completely capturing the Oddusudan town, located on the crossroads leading to the rebel town of Mullaittivu and were consolidating their positions.
Mullaittivu housed most of the military facilities of the Tigers and most of the rebels and civilians who fled from captured areas are said to be holed up there.

According to the battlefield reports, troops have also gained total control over Kurinchattiv village located on the eastern bank of Jaffna lagoon on Monday afternoon.

"The fall of Kurinchattiv draws tactical advantage to the security forces, who are determined at flushing out the remaining LTTE fortifications in the Elephant Pass, Kilaly, Muhamalai and Nagarkovil areas," the army said.

Kurinchattiv with its unique high ground area adds more advantage for the recent military manoeuvres of the army, which will be able to concentrate heavy gun attacks at all directions, the sources said.

While the army said separate military fighting formations are marching eastwards to Mullaittivu, the pro-rebel Tamilnet website claimed that Tamil Tigers were putting up strong resistance to the military advance, killing 53 soldiers and wounding another 80.

Army officials, on the other hand, said security forces recovered the bodies of 12 Tiger rebels.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka today formally marked the capture of Killinocchi by flying the national flag and observing two minutes of silence to honour the fallen troops.

State television and radio stations stopped regular programmes for two minutes to mark the occasion. Private television channels aired the national anthem.

At a Defence Ministry function here, top officials hailed the Killinocchi triumph. Other government institutions across the country also paid tribute to the Lankan war heroes.

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