Sri Lankan troops on Saturday captured the last patch of coastline held by the Tamil Tigers and the rebels would shortly be left without any territory, a top military source said.
Two divisions of soldiers that had been fighting along the coastline from the southern and northern ends of the remaining rebel territory linked up on Saturday morning, the official said. "The Tigers still have a few square kilometres (miles) of land, but not the use of the beach front," he said, adding that the rest of the rebel-held area would be taken soon.
State television, which has journalists travelling with the soldiers, also reported that the Tigers had lost control of the coastline and no longer had access to the sea.
The remaining rebel fighters attempted several suicide strikes against advancing troops but snipers took out the attackers before they could cause any damage, the army said in a statement."Tiger terrorists (are) now trying their maximum to do damage control even at this last moment of their losing battle," the army said, adding that there was heavy fighting overnight.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has vowed to take the last territory from the Tigers by Sunday, ending the separatists' 37-year armed campaign for a independent ethnic Tamil homeland.
A military spokesman told AFP around 10,000 civilians had managed to flee to government areas on Friday, and that there was now "hardly anybody left" in the rebel zone on the northeast coast. "They are slowly giving up. They are blowing up whatever arms and ammunition they have," Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said of the remnants of the once-powerful Tamil Tiger army.