Military sandwiches rebels into narrow peninsula

In an intensifying bid to regain the Jaffna peninsula, Sri Lankan forces have pushed Tamil Tiger rebels three miles further southwards, seizing the key town Pallai, said military sources. War planes bombed two militant boats in a nearby lagoon.


REUTERS - Sri Lankan troops overran a Tamil Tiger-held town and the air force destroyed rebel boats in an intensifying battle for the separatists' last redoubt on the strategic Jaffna Peninsula, the military said on Thursday.

Troops are sandwiching the Tigers from the north and south on the thin neck of the northern peninsula that connects it to the rest of the Indian Ocean island, pounding the rebels from both directions since Tuesday.

"Troops captured Pallai today, going forward from yesterday's positions, and are getting closer to Elephant Pass," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. "There are small pockets of fighting and the terrorists are withdrawing."

Pallai is a village on the northern front being attacked by two divisions, while Elephant Pass is a strategic former army base to the south that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) captured in 2000 in a stinging defeat for the army.

No casualties have been reported so far, Nanayakkara said.

Jets early on Thursday blew up two large boats in the Chundikulam lagoon to the east of Elephant Pass, and earlier on Wednesday attacked reinforcements constructing defences nearby, air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanyakkara said.

Chundikulam is on the other very narrow isthmus linking Jaffna to the main island, located on the east coast.

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