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Sri Lanka pushes further into rebel territory

[AP, Saturday, 10 January 2009 09:42 No Comment]

Sri Lankan government troops on Saturday pushed into two of the last slices of territory held by Tamil Tiger rebels, a day after capturing a key stronghold in the north, the military said.


Soldiers moved into land the rebels have been holding on the east coast of the Jaffna peninsula, said military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara. On Friday, Tamil Tiger rebels lost Elephant Pass, their last major stronghold on the northern peninsula, to government troops.


Soldiers were also moving Saturday into territory on the mainland south of the peninsula, where the rebels have been forced to retreat after months of government offensives, he said.


Rebel officials could not be reached for comment.


The operations follow the government’s capture Friday of the rebels strategic Elephant Pass base. The victory came a week after the military seized the Tamil Tiger administrative capital of Kilinochchi and began racing deep into rebel-held areas.


The government has vowed to crush the separatist guerrillas and end the Indian Ocean island nation’s quarter-century-old civil war in the coming months.


The capture of Elephant Pass gives the government nearly full control of the northern peninsula _ the Tamil’s cultural capital and the symbolic heart of the insurgency _ for the first time in nine years.


The fall of Elephant Pass also puts the A-9 road, Sri Lanka’s major north-south highway and a powerful symbol of national unity, completely under government control for the first time in 23 years. The road will allow soldiers in the north to link up with those coming from the south and west and attack the rebels boxed in the northeast with renewed force.

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