Sri Lankan soldiers have recaptured a key northern town near the Tamil Tigers’ headquarters, 18 years after the area was seized by the insurgents, the military said Monday.
Troops seized Kokavil town, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of the insurgents’ de facto capital of Kilinochchi, on Sunday, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said. He did not give casualty details.
The capture was the latest sign of the government’s recent dominance in the island’s decades-old civil war since it promised to defeat the insurgency by the end of the year. The rebels have been forced to abandon vast areas of land and retreat to territory in the northeast during months of heavy battles.
The Tamil Tigers have controlled Kokavil since they overran a military camp there in 1990, Nanayakkara said.
Rebel officials could not be contacted for comment. It is difficult to verify battlefield reports because most journalists are barred from the war zone.
The military has been closing in on Kilinochchi for weeks and continued its march Monday. Air force jets bombed a village from which the Tamil Tigers have launched counterattacks on government forces’ attempting to break through to the rebel stronghold, the military said in a statement.
The military said three targets were successfully hit but did not provide casualty details.
A pro-rebel Web site, meanwhile, reported that a 6-year-old was killed Monday by government artillery fire on another rebel-controlled village.
TamilNet reported that the girl was returning home after her school closed early because of military artillery fire.
Military spokesman Nanayakkara denied the accusations, saying the military had not targeted the village. He accused the rebels of trying to attract international sympathy with such reports.
Separately, army snipers killed three rebels in the northern Jaffna peninsula on Sunday and Monday, a Defense Ministry statement said.
Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for the country’s ethnic minority Tamils, who have suffered marginalization at the hands of successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.