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Battle for Sri Lankan rebel headquarters rages again

[Reuters, Wednesday, 17 December 2008 10:02 No Comment]

Sri Lankan troops assaulted the outskirts of the separatist Tamil Tigers’ self-proclaimed capital on Wednesday, the military said, a day after both sides said they had killed more than 100 in a series of confrontations.

 

For a second day, troops launched coordinated assaults on the lines of trenches and earthen "bunds" the Tigers have built encircling their headquarters town of Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka, the military said.

Kilinochchi is a strategic target of a government increasingly confident of ending the 25-year conflict, after having made the most battlefield progress by any so far in what is one of Asia’s longest and seemingly intractable civil wars.

 

"They are fighting in about five directions toward that bund, and we are trying to expand our locations from there," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said on Wednesday.

 

"This bund is, from the west, about 5 km (3 miles) from town. From the south it is almost hugging the town limits. So now we are in the town limits and we are attacking the southern edge of the town," he said.

In what was one of the bloodiest single days since the military renewed its offensive in January after President Mahinda Rajapaksa threw out a poorly observed 2002 truce, soldiers carried out four coordinated assaults on Kilinochchi on Tuesday.

 

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) initially said they killed 40 soldiers, but later upped the number to 130, the pro-rebel website TamilNet.com reported. That came after the military said it had killed 120 rebels and lost 25 soldiers.

 

"More than 300 soldiers were wounded in the heavy battle that raged throughout the day till 4 p.m. on Tuesday on four main localities and along a wide stretch of the Kilinochchi frontiers," TamilNet quoted the Tigers’ peace secretariat director S. Puleedevan as saying.

 

Nanayakkara denied the kill count given by the LTTE, saying that only 25 soldiers died. The number of missing soldiers had risen to 18 from 10, and those wounded remained at 160.

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