Sri Lankan Army on Saturday captured a key LTTE defence line that would facilitate easier movement into the rebel-dominated Vavuniya-Mannar region as separate clashes in the island's embattled north left at least 17 people, including 14 Tamil Tigers, dead.
"We have moved one kilometer into Uilankulam entry-exit point towards Mannar, pushing the LTTE to retreat with its arms and artillery today," a defence ministry spokesman said, adding this would give them tactical advantage.
Fourteen LTTE rebels were among 17 people killed in various incidents of violence in the restive northern Sri Lanka since yesterday, the Defence Ministry said.
"The Army launched an attack on seven LTTE bunkers in the Parappakandal area in north-western Mannar today killing eight militants and injuring 12," the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.
One soldier was also killed and six others injured in the confrontation, it said.
Earlier, the army said the ground situation along Mannar and Vavuniya defence lines might reach a decisive stage soon.
In another incident, six rebels were killed when the Sri Lankan Army launched an attack at an LTTE bunker construction site yesterday at Palamoddai in Mannar.
Separately, police said suspected LTTE militants killed two Tamil civilians in Jaffna and Batticaloa on Friday.
Meanwhile, the pro-Tiger website 'Tamilnet' said the LTTE cadres thwarted an attempt by Sri Lankan army to enter their Forward Defence Lines in Kokkuthoduvaai in Wanni yesterday.
It quoted the LTTE as claiming that four Sri Lankan soldiers were killed and more than nine injured in the incident.