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Lankan troops enter last Tamil Tiger-held town of Mullaittivu

T V Sriram in Colombo | January 25, 2009 21:44 IST

Pushing ahead with their final assault on the beleaguered Tamil rebels, Sri Lankan troops on Sunday entered the garrison town of Mullaittivu, the last urban stronghold of the LTTE [Images] and were engaged in fierce fighting to recapture the area after 12 years.
    
The Army's 59th Division soldiers fought their way into the town amid fierce resistance by LTTE and were waging pitched battles with groups of rebels, the military said.
    
Most of the remaining rebel cadres, along with the Tamil civilians were believed to be in the surrounding jungles.
    
Troops launched a surprise attack on boats across the Nanthikandal lagoon and entered Mullaittivu this morning, the
military cited "battlefield sources" as saying.
    
"Infantrymen of 7 Gemunu Watch led by Lt Col Chaminda Lamahewa have been the first to enter the town amid heavy
LTTE resistance," a defence official said.
    
The town, situated in a narrow stretch of land between Nanthikandal lagoon and the Indian Ocean, fell to the rebels in 1996 when the government lost nearly 1,000 of its soldiers in fighting. Since then, the LTTE had established its main
military base there.
    
Once the mop-up operation is completed, the area will be declared "liberated", the sources said. Military officials maintained that the town is yet to be taken over.    

The Sri Lankan army has achieved a string of successes in recent battles against the LTTE, capturing the de facto LTTE
capital of Kilinochchi and the strategic Elephant Pass at the entrance of Jaffna Peninsula earlier this month.




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