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Lankan troops encircle last 8 sq km in war zone, navy on alert

world Updated: Apr 23, 2009 14:54 IST

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Sensing an imminent collapse of the LTTE, Sri Lankan forces on Thursday encircled the last 8 sq km patch of area in northern war zone where they suspect Tiger supremo V Prabhakaran and his top aides are holed up and put naval warships on full alert to foil any escape bid by the rebels.

A naval blockade was put around northern Mullaittivu close to the areas where LTTE cadres still had access to the sea as Sri Lankan Army chief Sarath Fonseka said the troops knew the "general area" where Prabhakaran could be hiding.

Backed by tanks, the Lankan forces surrounded the small jungle patch where an estimated 800-900 Tamil Tigers were still offering resistance.

"We are set to destroy him," Fonseka said, admitting that his forces were facing stiff resistance from the remnant LTTE cadres.

But the Army chief said the security forces' primary task at the moment was to get trapped Tamil civilians out of the war zone to safety.

Echoing his chief's words, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanyakkara said, "fierce fighting was going on. But our priority is to get the civilians out."

"We can finish them off very quickly after the civilians come out," the spokesman said.