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LTTE''s last stronghold Mullaitivu captured: Lankan army chief
Published on 26 Jan. 2009 12:38 AM IST
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Sri Lankan troops fighting their way into the areas of the Tamil Tiger rebels Sunday captured the rebels' last major bastion of Mullaitivu, dealing severe body blow to the beleaguered rebel outfit, the island-nation's army chief said Sunday. "Mullaitivu, the (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) LTTE garrison town has been completely captured by our heroic troops. It is now totally under our control," Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka announced through the national television. "This is the long awaited victory and I am happy to say that our heroic forces today captured the Mullaitivu town after 12 years. This is the biggest victory since Pooneryn, Elephant Pass, Paranthan, Kilinochchi, Dharmapuram which we won since Jan 1," said the army chief, who was personally conducting the "fight to finish" campaign against the LTTE. Showing the map to illustrate the location of the north-eastern town of Mullaitivu and the route taken by troops to reach there, the army chief said his troops had fought their way through 40 km of thick jungles track to fully capture the Mullaitivu town. He said the military advance towards Mullaitivu began in January 2008 from Weli-Oya, lying about 40 km from Mullaitivu and added that the rebels were now confined a small strip of land. "Our forces are also going to liberate hundred of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians who are being forced to live under the Tigers," Fonseka said, hailing the committed soldiers and their heroic deeds. Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said the soldiers were advancing further into the rebel-held areas from Mullaitivu town, countering efforts to stop the troop movement. "The LTTE cadres are now confined to a small area, between Vishwamadhu and Puthukkudiyiruppu," Brig. Nanayakkara added. There was no immediate comment from the LTTE on this set-back to the rebel outfit. The defence ministry said troops of 593 Brigade led by Lt. Col. Jayantha Gunarathne "made a surprise attack across the Nanthikandal lagoon and entered the Mullaitivu town area this morning". "Infantrymen of 7 Gemunu Watch led by Lt.Col. Chaminda Lamahewa were the first to enter the town amid heavy terror resistance," it said. The capture of Mullaitivu comes a day after the defence ministry said the LTTE blasted off the Kalamadukulam Tank bund Saturday "in a desperate attempt to stall the multi-frontal military surge towards Vishwamadu area". It said the LTTE cadres "have used high explosives and triggered the detonation flooding a section of the A-35 Paranthan - Mullaitivu main road, Ramanathapuram, Dharmapuram and Vishwamadu". "Kalamadukulam Tank, the second largest in the embattled region, spreads over 4.5 sq km with a capacity of supplementing irrigation water to over 500 acres of land. The tank was at spill level due to the recent northeast monsoon," the ministry said Saturday, adding that the rebels had resorted to this tactic after suffering heavy beating by the security forces during intense fighting. Mullaitivu town is situated in a narrow stretch of a land between Nanthikandal lagoon and the Indian Ocean. The town fell to the LTTE in 1996. Since then the LTTE established its main military base there. The troops' foray into Mullaitivu caps a string of military victories for the Sri Lankan Army. After capturing the entire eastern province in July 2007 from the LTTE, Sri Lankan troops began their operation in the north in September from the northwestern Manner district. By December 2008, the troops had fully seized the western coastal belt from the rebels, from northwestern Mannar district up to Pooneryn. Kilinochchi, the politico-military hub of the LTTE, fell at the start of 2009. The same week, the troops advanced further north and re-captured the 100-acre garrison at the Elephant Pass, the isthmus to the northern Jaffna peninsula. The capture of the Elephant Pass saw the government taking full control of the 325-km Jaffna-Kandy highway for the first time in 23 long years. Prabhakaran, who founded the LTTE in 1976, is known to have deep and seemingly secure underground caves and bunkers in the dense forests of Mullaitivu, from where he oversaw the war against Indian troops in Sri Lanka's northeast in 1987-90. The whereabouts of the elusive rebel chief are not known.

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