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'52 LTTE men killed, airstrip falls to army'

world Updated: Nov 21, 2008 14:08 IST

At least 52 LTTE militants were killed in pitched battles with the Sri Lankan security forces which overran rebel forward defence lines in the Jaffna peninsula and captured a Tamil Tigers' airstrip in nearby Kilinochchi, officials said on Friday.

"Smashing the conventional notion that the Tigers' Forward Defence Lines in Muhamale and Kilaly cannot be challenged, troops in Jaffna yesterday overran the first LTTE Forward Defence Line in the strategic bottleneck and the lagoon to the north and south of the Jaffna-Kandy Highway killing over fifty militants," the army said.

With the breaching of the Tigers' Jaffna defence line, Sri Lankan forces have now mounted a two-pronged fresh offencive on the Tiger headquarters of Kilinochchi from the south and the north.

The Lankan troops have apparently been bogged down on the outkirts of Kilinochchi from the South and are now making a fresh bid to capture the strategic town from two sides.

Elaborating on the week-long pitched battles leading to the breach of the Jaffna defence line, a military spokesman said:"The fire fighting resulted in the loss of over 50 LTTE militants besides injuries to several others."

Casualties caused to the Sri Lankan troops were comparatively very low in the fighting that lasted for a few days continuously, he claimed.

However, the pro-rebel Tamilnet.Com website reported that 130 government soldiers were killed and another 450 wounded in this week's fighting..

"The Sri Lanka army soldiers who were sent on offencive mission into the no-go zone in Kilali and Muhamalai were trained for a 'do-or-die mission," it said.

"The capture of the LTTE Forward Defences in Kilaly and Muhamale spreading over a few kilometres would further weaken the morale of the LTTE since the troops would soon also able to dominate major intersections on the Highway," the army said.

Meanwhile, Task Force 1 now marching towards LTTE stronghold in Paranthan in Kilinochchi has captured one of the LTTE airstrips located in the Nivil area in Pooneryn yesterday, it said.

According to the defence sources, the airstrip is about 200 metre in length and that the LTTE had demarcated a stretch of the B-69 Pooneryn-Parantan main road also to be used as an emergency landing strip for its aircraft.

Troops have established their forward boundaries about 14 km west from Paranthan and engaged in clearing operations at present, the sources added.

The three frontal military assaults at the central Kilinochchi battlefront led by troops of the 57 Division and Task Force 3 entered decisive phase at troops met resistance from LTTE, North of Kokavil, Murunkandy and North of Akkarayankulam yesterday.

Meanwhile, forward domination elements of the 57 Division operating in general area Murunkandy near Kilinochchi have gained control over 3 LTTE bunker overheads after hours of intense fighting in the area, security sources said.

Troops have also found 2 T-56 assault rifles following a confrontation with LTTE in general area North of Kokavil in the region, the military said.

"Further dominations also continued North of Akkarayankulama with fierce fighting reported closer to the LTTE built earth bund surrounding Kilinochchi. In Mankulama, Task Force-3 troops now consolidating defences came across an LTTE small arms fire yesterday which was immediately thwarted as troops claimed recovering 2 LTTE bodies and 3 T-56 assault rifles during subsequent search operations conducted," it said.