Fall of Tiger HQ imminent says Sri Lanka
Colombo, November 26, 2008
Sri Lankan soldiers would soon capture the headquarters of the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, the military said on Wednesday, and had reached the outskirts of the key town as an assault in the north ground ahead.
The battle for Kilinochchi, the self-declared capital of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), has intensified in the two weeks since the army seized the entire western coast from the rebels for the first time since 1993.
"The fall of Kilinochchi is very imminent," defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told a media conference. "Troops are in the outskirts of Kilinochchi and consolidating the power."
The LTTE could not be reached for comment. Independent confirmation is all but impossible since both sides limit media access to the war zone.
Rambukwella declined to say how far away soldiers are from the town, located 330 km (205 miles) north of the capital Colombo. Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara confirmed that clashes were continuing on Wednesday.
Since early September, soldiers have been battling through earthen defences and bunkers on the southwestern edge of Kilinochchi. The military now says other units are approaching it from the west and north.
Speculation intensified this week that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would announce the town's seizure on Thursday to upstage LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran's annual speech.
Prabhakaran, who turned 54 on Wednesday, traditionally uses his Heroes' Day speech to rally backers, including those in the global Tamil diaspora who have helped fund the LTTE for years.
Rajapaksa's government has captured more ground than any other in the 25-year-old war, one of Asia's longest-running rebellions. That has led to calls by allies to hold early elections to capitalise on his military success, which analysts say would help him sidestep criticism over an ailing economy. - Reuters