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SL bombs rebel targets across the north

Sri Lankan fighter jets and attack helicopters pounded rebel positions today as troops pushed ahead with their offensive to crush the Tamil Tigers and seize the insurgents last stronghold in the north.

world Updated: Jan 12, 2009 13:52 IST

Sri Lankan fighter jets and attack helicopters pounded rebel positions on Monday as troops pushed ahead with their offensive to crush the Tamil Tigers and seize the insurgents last stronghold in the north.

The military won a string of major victories over the rebels in recent weeks, capturing their administrative capital and seizing their main base on the Jaffna peninsula.

The Tigers, who once controlled a substantial swath of territory in the north, retreated to a small region of jungle in the northeast.

The military kept the pressure on Monday, launching airstrikes on rebel gathering points in support of ground troops, the military said.

The two sides also fought nearly three dozen battles on Sunday, the military said. Troops recovered four rebel bodies. The rebels fought back with mortar barrages and roadside bombs. The Tigers were not available for comment, but the rebel-linked TamilNet Web site reported a sharp rise in civilian casualties from the fighting in recent days.

Aid groups have expressed concern that hundreds of thousands of civilians living in the rebels' shrinking territory will increasingly fall victim to the encroaching violence. The rebels have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have suffered decades of marginalization by governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. The conflict has killed more than 70,000 people.