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'Sri Lanka troops close to finishing off Tigers'

Sri Lankan security forces are on the verge of establishing complete control over territory held by Tamil rebels after killing "scores" of guerrillas, the defence ministry said on Wednesday.

world Updated: Mar 04, 2009 11:22 IST

Sri Lankan security forces are on the verge of establishing complete control over territory held by Tamil rebels after killing "scores" of guerrillas, the defence ministry said on Wednesday.

Government forces were consolidating their position in the last urban area held by the Tamil Tigers, the small town of Puthukkudiriruppu in the northeast, following heavy fighting on Tuesday, the ministry said.

"Scores of terrorists were killed in the fighting and as many injured," the ministry said in a statement.

Government forces fought their way into Puthukkudiriruppu last week despite heavy resistance from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

As fighting appears to be reaching a climax, international concern has mounted for the safety of about 70,000 civilians the government says are trapped in the conflict zone.

The United Nations says the number of civilians trapped could be about 200,000, while Tamil groups outside the country say it could be more than 300,000.

The UN's top humanitarian official John Holmes last week said that civilians were dying daily.

A government victory would bring an end to 37 years of armed conflict in the South Asian island nation.