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Lankan jets hit rebel suicide bombers' base

Lankan air force jets pounded a Tamil Tiger suicide fighters' base deep in the country's embattled north and ground troops seized a major rebel defense line on the northwestern coast.

world Updated: Oct 30, 2008 13:40 IST

Sri Lankan air force jets pounded a Tamil Tiger suicide fighters' base deep in the country's embattled north on Thursday, and ground troops seized a major rebel defense line on the northwestern coast, the military said.

The airstrike on the base of the Tamil Tiger suicide fighters, known as Black Tigers, in the rebel stronghold of Mullaitivu came during an intensified government offensive against the guerrillas' de facto state in the north. Officials have pledged to crush the rebels by the end of the year.

Air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said pilots confirmed the attack was successful, but details of damage and casualties were not immediately available.

In the infantry clashes, soldiers fought intense gunbattles for nearly two weeks before capturing the rebel fortifications in Nachchikuda, a rebel coastal stronghold, on Wednesday evening, the Defense Ministry said.

Troops "launched a multi-pronged offensive and marched toward Nachchikuda from three directions, destroying and capturing vital" rebel positions, the ministry said in a statement. The rebels "have withdrawn from the area as the security forces intensified their military thrust," it said.

The military did not provide casualty details, in line with a new government policy, but said its troops inflicted "heavy casualties" on the rebels.

Fighting has escalated in recent months in the 25-year-old civil war as the military has captured a series of rebel bases and large chunks of territory in the north.

Also on Wednesday, soldiers took control of Jayapuram, a rebel-held village in Kilinochchi.

The latest military successes came a day after the rebels' rudimentary air force bombed a power station on the outskirts of the capital and an army base in the north, injuring three soldiers. The bombings, which showed that the rebels retain the ability to carry out startling attacks on the government, were a huge morale boost for the reeling guerrillas and an embarrassment for the military.

With reporters banned from the war zone, the media must depend on government and rebel statements for most information about the war. It is difficult to contact rebel officials for comment because most communication lines to their territory have been severed. The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have suffered marginalization at the hands of successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.