Sri Lanka's military: Soldiers seize rebel camps
By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI,Associated Press Writer AP - 1 hour 50 minutes ago
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Sri Lankan soldiers captured two Tamil Tiger rebel camps amid heavy fighting while the air force launched attacks on retreating rebels as government troops pressed ahead with their offensive against the guerrillas in the north, the military said Sunday.
The military has achieved a string of major victories against the rebels in recent months _ including the capture of the Tamil Tiger administrative capital of Kilinochchi a week ago. The government has vowed to crush the separatist guerrillas and end the Indian Ocean island nation's 25-year-old civil war in the coming months.
Air force fighter jets bombed retreating Tamil rebels Sunday and destroyed a rebel boat in a lagoon near the village of Chundikulam on the Jaffna peninsula, the military said in a statement.
As the soldiers advance into the rapidly shrinking rebel territory, the rebels retreat southward to their last stronghold of Mullaittivu where they were expected to make a stand after months of government offensives.
On Saturday, soldiers captured a guerrilla camp in the village of Aiyamperumal in Mullaittivu, the military said in a separate statement.
Soldiers separately seized a rebel training camp near the village of Mulliyaweli, also in Mullaitivu, on Friday. There were underground bunkers and an auditorium in the camp, the statement said.
Both military statements did not provide details of casualties.
Separately, the military said soldiers found three bodies of Tamil rebels killed in fighting in Waddakachchi in the Kilinochchi district.
Rebel spokesmen could not be reached for comment on the fighting. Independent verification of battlefield reports released by the two sides is not possible because journalists are barred from the war zone.
Meanwhile, the pro-rebel TamilNet Web site reported that four civilians were killed Saturday night in a government artillery assault on a rebel-held village in Mullaitivu.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara denied the rebel claim and said the military attacks only identified rebel positions.
Human rights groups have warned that casualties among the hundreds of thousands of civilians living in the shrinking pocket of rebel territory are likely to mount as the government closes in on the insurgents.
The rebels have been fighting since 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have suffered decades of marginalization by governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. The conflict has killed more than 70,000 people.
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