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Sri Lanka

Government troops target remaining rebel strongholds

Article published on the 2009-01-05 Latest update 2009-01-05 12:48 TU

Military tanks patrol the road in Paranthan, near Kilinochichi, 4 January 2009(Photo: Reuters)

Military tanks patrol the road in Paranthan, near Kilinochichi, 4 January 2009
(Photo: Reuters)

The Sri Lankan army said it is targeting the remaining Tamil Tiger bases in the jungles of north of the country, after government forces took the rebel capital of Kilinochchi Friday. The country officially marked the capture of the town Monday by and observing two minutes of silence to honour the security forces. Journalists who were allowed a rare visit to the area Sunday reported that few people were left in the town.

The military flew a contingent of foreign and local journalists to Kilinochchi Sunday. One of them, B. Singe, told RFI that it was a ghost town, with many building showing signs of damage.

Army officials did not show them any civilians until the end of the visit, he said.

“In the last moments, military show some civilians, eight families, 24 members, who yesterday came back to the government controlled area from Tamil rebel controlled area,” he said.

“They are establishing a refugee centre at Kilinochchi hospital,” he continued.

Eyewitness: B Singe, journalist allowed into Kilinochchi

05/01/2009 by Rosslyn Hyams

Residents did not say much, though, because they were afraid. Singe said there was tension “because of so many military persons and journalists around them ask so many questions”.

These were the first journalists allowed in the area since the military started its offensive against the Tigers over nine months ago.

He said he heard sounds of fighting in the jungle area around Kilinochchi.

“All day, we heard the mortar and artillery sound, and fighting sounds around the Kilinochchi area,” he said.

One resident told a reporter from the AFP news service who was part of the group of journalists allowed in Kilinochchi, that the Tigers had ordered civilians to go to Mullaitivu, on the south-east coast, where the group has its main military facilities.

The army said it would move to capture LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

"We are taking the offensive to the Mullaitivu jungles where Prabhakaran is hiding," Major General Jagath Dias told reporters in Kilinochchi.

The pro-rebel website said Tigers were putting up resistance to the military advance on Mullaitivu. They said they killed 53 soldiers and wounded 80.

Military officials denied the figures, and said forces recovered the bodies of 12 rebels.