Friday, January 9, 2009

Sri Lanka troops inside key Elephant Pass...

Sri Lankan troops are fighting inside Elephant Pass, the strategic gateway to the Jaffna Peninsula held by the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, the government said Friday (Jan 09).

"We haven't captured it. We are moving in and fighting is going on," defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella, who is also a minister, told Reuters. Some media reports said it had been captured, but Rambukwella said that was premature.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could not be reached for comment, but have repeatedly vowed to reverse a string of defeats that have prompted many to ask if a ground war that started in 1983 is finally nearing its end.

The former army base is as strategic as it is symbolic for the military. Its capture will put all of Jaffna in government hands for the first time since 2000, when the army lost Elephant Pass in one of its worst defeats in the 25-year war.

It will also open up the main north-south A-9 road linking Jaffna to the mainland, freeing up a mechanised division to join the battle now moving east towards the LTTE's last stronghold in the eastern port of Mullaittivu and its environs.