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Sri Lankan troops move on rebel military HQ, face jungle warfare

[AFP, Sunday, 4 January 2009 09:04 No Comment]

Sri Lankan troops have advanced on the military headquarters of the Tamil Tigers and engaged the rebels in fresh gunbattles, having captured their de facto political capital.

 

The defence ministry said ground forces, backed by helicopter gunships and war planes, were moving towards Mullaittivu, the jungle district along the northeastern seaboard, where the Tigers have their main military facilities.

"The battle for Mullaitivu has already begun," the ministry said in a statement.

 

The air force used Mi-24 helicopter gunships to carry out four bombing raids Saturday in support of the advancing troops while jet aircraft were also deployed to hit Tiger positions, a military spokesman said.

 

He added that 10 such missions were carried out on Friday.

 

Sri Lankans may have celebrated the fall of the Tamil Tigers’ de facto capital, Kilinochchi, with street parties but analysts have warned that bloodier battles may lie ahead as the rebel army takes refuge in the jungles to which they are well accustomed.

 

In a reminder of Tamil Tiger force a bomb went off at a commercial area of the capital city Colombo on Saturday, wounding three civilians and damaging several vehicles, police said. A suicide bombing in Colombo on Friday killed two people and wounded 36.

 

Troops, who took the Tigers’ northern stronghold of Kilinochchi on Friday, were fanning out to neighbouring areas and confronted small pockets of rebel resistance, a military official said.

 

"Several Tigers were killed and security forces also suffered injuries," the official said.

 

The pro-rebel Tamilnet website reported that a petrol station and a bus station were bombed by the air force on Friday morning, killing four civilians and wounding another eight.

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