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Sri Lanka honors troops fighting rebels

[IHT, Monday, 5 January 2009 07:27 No Comment]

Sri Lankans raised flags and held a moment of silence Monday in honor of the military, as troops pushed deeper into rebel-held territory in the north in their offensive aimed at crushing the Tamil Tigers and ending the 25-year-old civil war here.

 

Government forces have won a string of stunning victories over the rebels in recent months, forcing them to withdraw from much of the de facto state they once controlled in the north. On Friday, troops took control of the rebels’ administrative capital, Kilinochchi, dealing a harsh blow to their dreams of establishing a separate state for ethnic Tamils here.

 

The rebels, as well has hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by the fighting, are now confined to a jungle area slightly larger than the city of Los Angeles.

 

In honor of the troops, and of those slain in the war, the government held flag raising ceremonies across the country and called for two minutes of silence, even as the military pressed ahead with its attacks.

 

Troops clashed with the rebels across the Mullaittivu district Sunday and recovered the bodies of at least 15 guerrilla fighters slain in the battles, the military said Monday.

Rebels could not be reached for comment on the fighting.

 

However, the rebel-affiliated TamilNet Web site reported Sunday that the insurgents stalled a military advance on the road to its northeastern stronghold of Mullaittivu killing 53 soldiers and wounding 80 others Sunday.

 

The military gave no figures for its own casualties.

 

Independent confirmation of the fighting was not available because the military usually bars journalists from the war zone.

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