Sri Lankan troops capture rebels' last stronghold, kill more than 400 rebels
The military in Sri Lanka said Sunday that the government troops operating in the northern battle field have taken control of Puthukkudiyiruppu, the last stronghold of Tamil Tiger rebels and killed more than 400 rebels in fierce fighting, Xinhua reported.
The last one-sq-km area of Puthukkudiyiruppu formerly held by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) rebels was captured by the Army's 53, 58 divisions and Task Force 8, evicting the rebels from their last stronghold in the island's north.
Military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said the LTTE have been driven out of Puthukkudiyiruppu east and they are now mixing up with civilians in the 20-sq-km no fire zone at Puttumatalan area.
"The troops have taken complete control of Puthukkudiyiruppu. The only uncleared area remaining is the no fire zone," Nanayakkara said.
The military also said some 420 dead bodies of the rebels have been found in the area in the last three days, including 250 bodies found on Sunday.
Among the dead rebels were their senior leaders Theepan, Nagesh, Durga and the LTTE's women wing leader Vedusha, military officials said.
Gadaafi, the personal security officer for the reclusive LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaranan was also killed in the fighting, said the officials.
Defense officials said the troops had asked the trapped LTTE cadres to surrender before launching the military onslaught against them, but the cadres were ordered to fight to their death by the LTTE leadership.
The military say the LTTE's armed struggle to set up a separate homeland for the minority Tamil community is coming to an end as the organization has lost all its 15,000 sq km territory except a 20-sq-km "safe zone" in the current military offensive started in 2006.
The government accuses the rebels of holding a large number of civilians as human shields in the "safe zone" at Puttumatalan area.
Actual number of civilians trapped in the area is being debated. The government argued that only 120,000 people lived there out of which a total of 66,000 had already left. But international agencies said some 230,000 people had been originally trapped.
A concerned international community has pleaded with both the government and the rebels to care for the safety of civilians amid allegations that a large number of them are receiving injuries or getting killed in the crossfire.
The government troops have surrounded the "safe zone" in the northeastern coast with five divisions deployed to free the civilians, military sources said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday urged the LTTE leadership to allow civilians to leave the conflict area of their own free will. He also reminded the Sri Lankan government of its responsibility to protect civilians, and to avoid the use of heavy weapons in areas where there are civilians.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the mid-1980s in one of the world's longest civil wars.