Sri Lankan troops are fighting inside Elephant Pass, the strategic gateway to the Jaffna Peninsula held by the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, the government said on Friday.
"We haven't captured it. We are moving in and fighting is going on," defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella, who is also a minister, told Reuters. Some media reports said it had been captured, but Rambukwella said that was premature.
The Tigers could not be reached for comment.
The former army base is as strategic as it is symbolic for the military. Its capture will put all of Jaffna in government hands for the first time since 2000, when the army lost Elephant Pass in one of its worst defeats in the 25-year war.