At least 35 Tamil Tigers were killed when Sri Lankan troops successfully smashed through an earth bund built by the rebels in their last stronghold after days of fierce fighting, the island nation's defence ministry said on Saturday.
Amid fierce resistance from the rebels, troops of the army's 58 Division Friday evening "gained total control over the entire earth bund built by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in Karayamulliavaikkal", the defence ministry said in a statement issued in Colombo.
According to sources, Karayamulliavaikkal and a couple of other villages are located inside the six square kilometre sandy coastal land strip where the LTTE has now been cornered.
"Fierce fighting commenced on May 6 and lasted for days as terrorists made their fullest strength to hold the earth bund built to resists the security forces' offensive march," the statement said, adding that the Tamil Tigers suffered "considerable damages" during their abortive bid to hold the earth bund.
"In a subsequent search operation in the area, troops have found 35 bodies of LTTE terrorists killed in fighting alongwith LTTE military hardware," it said.
The LTTE has been adopting the tactics of making ditch-cum-bunds around their strongholds to slow and prevent the military advances, but the military has managed to capture several LTTE strongholds, including Kilinochchi, Paranthan, Elephant Pass and Mullaitivu in the north.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday announced that his fight-to-finish military campaign against the Tamil Tigers was fast nearing its end.
"The war with the LTTE is rapidly nearing its conclusion and it is my hope that this will create the space for democracy to flourish in the North again. At long last we are on a threshold of defeating terrorism and facing a new era of lasting peace and security for all Sri Lankans," Rajapaksa told the Colombo-based diplomatic community.
According to government statistics, nearly 200,000 people have fled the war zone and come to government-held areas since the beginning of this year. They have been temporarily housed at refugee camps and welfare centres in the northern Vavuniya town.
The defence ministry said early this week that the troops have cornered the LTTE into a small strip of land and were now "surging in three frontal ground manoeuvres to rescue civilians held hostage by the LTTE at gunpoint".
The LTTE led by Velupillai Prabhakaran has been fighting for over 25 years to carve out a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka.