Sri Lankan security forces were about to recapture the final stronghold of Tamil Tigers in the country's east after 14 years, the military said on Wednesday after a fresh wave of fierce fighting in the region and in the waters off the northern coast.
Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said a total of 188 Tamil Tigers and nine government soldiers were killed in the past two months in the battle for Thoppigala jungles, the final bastion of the Tigers in the eastern district of Batticaloa.
The military recovered 25 to 30 bodies after destroying the three "satellite camps" in the region overnight, he said a day after a fierce clash between naval craft and a flotilla of Tiger boats in the north of the island left at least 40 rebels dead.
Samarasinghe claimed that 98 per cent of the operation had been completed and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had only a force of about 150 fighters trapped in the thick jungle area.
"They may still have the ability to carry out isolated hit-and-run attacks, but we have cleared 98 percent of the area," Samarasinghe said, adding it was for the first time in 14 years that the military was taking the area.
A defence ministry statement said "The navy suspects that around 40 LTTE Sea Tiger cadres would have been killed in the (sea) battle (on Tuesday evening)."
There was no immediate word from the Tigers about the clash or the military claims about Thoppigala.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's main telecom provider had blocked internet access to the pro-rebel Tamilnet.Com web site, a media rights group claimed in Colombo.