Sri Lankan troops on Thursday captured a key Tamil Tiger naval base as part of an offensive to dismantle the rebels’ northern fiefdom, the defence ministry said.
Security forces leading a major offensive to capture the Tamil Tiger political capital of Kilinochchi had opened another front in the neighbouring Mullaittivu district where the Tigers maintain their main military facilities.
“Troops entered the sea Tiger bastion of Alampil, located about 10 kilometres (six miles) south of Mullaittivu (town) this morning,” the ministry said in a statement.
It gave no details of casualties, but said the guerrillas had used Alampil as a key sea port to land supplies.
“Mullaittivu has become untenable as the fall of Alampil would facilitate the assault on Mullaittivu,” the ministry said.
There was no immediate word from the Tigers, who are known to operate a fleet of vessels to smuggle in weapons. Last year, Sri Lanka’s navy claimed it had destroyed at least 10 ships of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Meanwhile fighting raged in the north of the island as its troops maintained their advance on Kilinochchi.
The ministry had said last week that the fall of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (200 miles) north of Colombo, was imminent, but government troops have since been slowed down by monsoon rains and flooding.
More rains were expected on Thursday and Friday, according to Sri Lanka‘s meteorological office.
The LTTE has admitted losing ground to government troops but their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, has vowed to fight on.
The guerrillas, who began their struggle for a separate Tamil homeland in 1972, are facing the Sri Lankan army‘s biggest ever offensive.