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Asia-pacific

Government helicopters expand attack on Tamil Tigers

Video by Sophie DAVIDSON

Latest update : 2009-01-03

The Sri Lankan military claims to have used attack helicopters to bomb Tiger positions in the north of the island on Saturday, after having seized the rebels' de-facto capital of Kilinochchi.

REUTERS - Sri Lankan attack helicopters bombed Tamil Tiger
positions in the north of the island on Saturday, the military said,
a day after ground forces seized the rebel headquarters town
of Kilinochchi.

The military is now targetting the port town of Mullaitivu
and other rebel strongholds in the north as it presses on with
the deepest push into rebel-held areas to bring an end to the
25-year separatist war.

There has been no coment from the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam on the fall of Kilinochchi, for long the centre of
the Tamil fight for an independent homeland in which more than
70,000 people have been killed.

"MI-24 helicopters attacked rebel positions west of
Mullaitivu in support of ground troops," said a military source
asking not to be named in line with national security policy.

Troops fought their way into the Tiger stronghold of
Kilinochchi deep in the north on Friday, in one of the biggest
blows for the rebels in years.

Details of casualties from the fighting have not yet
emerged and a pro-rebel web site www.tamilnet.com said the
Tigers had moved their headquarters further northeast before
the town fell.

"The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has entered a virtual ghost
town," the website said. "The Tigers, who had put up heavy
resistance so far, had kept their casualties as low as possible
in the defensive fighting."

Sri Lanka military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanyakkara
said troops were carrying out search and recovery operations in
Kilinochchi town on Saturday.

Security has been tightened across the island following a
suicide bombing that killed three air force personnel in the
capital Colombo shortly after President Mahinda Rajapaksa
announced the fall of the de facto rebel capital.

ATTACKS FEARED

Military officials say the rebels have in the past hit back
with suicide bombings in the capital and elsewhere whenever
they have come under pressure on the northern frontlines.

"We will take all possible measures to avert any more
terrorist attacks, they (LTTE) are desperate now with the
biggest defeats in northern war front so they will try more
attacks," said Nanyakkara.

The LTTE started fighting the government in 1983. It says it
is battling for the rights of minority Tamils in the face of
mistreatment by successive governments led by the Sinhalese
majority since Sri Lanka won independence from Britain in 1948.

Exactly a year ago, Rajapaksa's government formally
scrapped an increasingly tattered six-year truce brokered by
Norway, saying the rebels were using it as cover to regroup and
re-arm.

The military had been closing in on Kilinochchi since
September. Over the past month, it has been assaulting Tiger
defences encircling the town and both sides have claimed to
have inflicted ever higher death tolls on the other.

"It was the constant dream of all Sri Lankans, whether
Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, who are opposed to separatism,
racism, and terrorism, and have always, sought peace, freedom
and democracy," Rajapaksa said in a nationally televised
address on Friday.

"Today our heroic troops have made that dream a reality. A
short while ago, our brave and heroic troops have fully
captured Kilinochchi that was considered the main bastion of
the LTTE."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid
said the Tamil Tigers had been "one of the most notorious and
brutal terrorist organizations over the past 20 years" but he
urged the government to address Tamil concerns.

"A peaceful dialogue is what is called for to resolve the
differences and legitimate concerns of the Tamils," he said.
 

Date created : 2009-01-03

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