At least 50 LTTE cadres were killed when they clashed with the Sri Lankan military on and off the north-eastern coast of Mullaitivu in the last 24 hours.
The battle between the military and the rebels seemed to rapidly heading towards a denouement with the land under LTTE’s control reduced to a total of 6 square km. According to the military, the remaining LTTE cadres, including leader V Prabhakaran, could have long been overrun but for the displaced Tamil civilians surrounding them. Estimates say between 20000 and 50000 civilians continue to be trapped inside the NFZ.
But the military inched towards gaining total control after repulsing a Sea Tiger suicide attack on a Sri Lankan navy (SLN) patrol early on Saturday. The attack – launched off the no fire zone (NFZ) coast -- however was repulsed and at least two rebel boats were destroyed. ``Monitoring of the LTTE communications revealed that 14 sea tiger carders have been killed in the gun battle,’’ the defence ministry said. Two LTTE boats were destroyed and one more was captured.
In fighting on land, at least 35 Tamil Tigers were killed when Sri Lankan army (SLA) troops smashed an earth bund built by the rebels in their last stronghold after days of fierce fighting, the defence ministry said.
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 in Karayamulliavaikkal", the ministry added.
``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 ministry said, adding that in the subsequent search operation in the area, troops recovered 35 LTTE bodies along with rebel military hardware.
Meanwhile, the pro-rebel TamilNet claimed on Saturday that the SLA continued heavy shelling with cluster-munitions on civilian targets in Mullivaaykkaal in NFZ throughout Thursday and Friday. ``Medical sources reported that 45 of the wounded, including 15 children, had succumbed to injuries adding that scores were killed and that those killed on the spot were not brought to hospital,’’ it claimed.
The military denied the allegations, calling it LTTE propaganda.