Sri Lankan troops expanding their positions on the eastern flank of former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) bastion of Kilinochchi have captured yet another rebel airstrip in the Mullaitivu district, the defence ministry said on Thursday.
The defence ministry said that the army troops of 632 Brigade have found the fifth runway of the LTTE east of Iranaimadu tank adjoining the old Kandy road, which runs parallel to the A-9 Jaffna-Kandy main highway via Olumadu on Wednesday.
"The runway complex is 50m wide and over 1,000m long. The runway is situated in the thick jungle with a massive bunker line and a trench line around the runway complex with mine fields and booby traps," it said on Thursday, adding that clearing operations were currently underway.
The ministry said that a hanger has also been found in the complex, which had been damaged by the fleeing LTTE cadres.
This is the second LTTE airstrip to be captured within a week by the troops operating in the largely jungle district of Mullaitivu.
Last Saturday, the troops captured a 2.5 km-long runway along with two empty armoured-plated hangers, lying 10 km west of the north-eastern Mullaitivu town.
There was no immediate reaction from the LTTE, which is believed to be in possession of unknown number of Czech-built Zlin - Z-143 light wing aircraft and have carried out dozens of night air raids targeting the military installations in the past.
The last LTTE air attack was Oct 29 last year when two LTTE light-wing aircraft flew out of their hideouts in the north and dropped bombs at a power plant station at Kelaniya, Colombo and at a military base in the north-western Mannar district simultaneously.
Confident after retaking full control of the 325 km-long main highway after pushing the rebels from main strongholds along the highway such as Kilinochchi, Paranthan, Elephant Pass and Muhamalai in quick succession, the troops began to concentrate fully on mounting attacks on Mullaitivu, where the rebels maintain their last major bastion.
In an interview to the state-run television, Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa Wednesday expressed confidence of wiping out the LTTE completely and said that the Sri Lankan military had attracted the world's attention by its major victories gained in the fight against the LTTE.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that the political leadership by his brother, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and correct military leadership to the armed forces were the principal reasons behind these historic victories against the LTTE.
The LTTE has been fighting against the Sri Lankan government for a quarter century to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the island.
Sri Lanka last week banned the LTTE with immediate effect and said that the rebel outfit would face all the consequences as a terrorist organisation.
Thousands have died since late 2005 in the escalating fight.