A major bid by the Tamil Tiger rebels to break into the forward defences of the troops along the north-eastern coastal belt was foiled by Sri Lankan troops Thursday, inflicting heavy damages to the rebels, defence ministry said.
The ministry said the troopers "successfully averted" the pre-dawn attempt by a group of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres "to break the forward defence line linking 55 and 58 Division troops south of Chalai around 4.00 a.m. Thursday".
"The LTTE terrorists have suffered heavy loses due to retaliation launched by the troops. In a subsequent search operation, the troops have found 33 bodies of LTTE terrorists killed during the hours-long gun battle," the defence ministry said.
It said a large haul of weapons including 33 T-56 assault rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and hand grenades were also recovered during the search operation in the area.
Chalai lies along the north-eastern coastal belt in the Mullaitivu district and LTTE had maintained a major naval base there until the advancing troops brought the area under their control last month, after months of heavy fighting.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara told IANS that at least 184 civilians escaping from the LTTE-held areas in the Mullaitivu district Thursday morning reached the area of Chalai under the 55 Division troops in the general.
They were later handed over to the civil authorities in the northern Jaffna peninsula to be sent to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) centres.
Over 35,000 people trapped in the war-zone in LTTE-held areas have entered the government-held areas since January and are being temporarily resettled in IDP centres in the northern Vavuniya and Jaffna districts.
The military says that the LTTE is now cornered into an area less than 50 square km, holding thousands of civilians as human shield.