Sri Lankan troops backed by artillery and mortar bombardment Monday captured yet another Tamil Tiger rebel stronghold amid fierce resistance, defence authorities said here.
The defence ministry announced that the troops launching a pre-dawn operation captured the strategic town of Kokkavil in the north on the Jaffna-Kandy main highway.
“Troops of Sri Lanka Army 57 division today reached long awaited milestone on their march into terrorist dens in Wanni with the liberation of the Kokkavil town,” the defence ministry said.
It said the troops “have gained full control of Kokkavil” nearly after two decades. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) overran a military base here in 1990 and had been operating its clandestine television and relay stations from there.
Fresh fighting broke out after few days of lull in the battlefield due to heavy monsoon rains.
According to reports, the heavy rains and the flash flood had not only stalled the military onslaught, but also had caused immense hardship to hundreds of thousands of people displaced due to fresh fighting in the north.
Sri Lankan troops advancing in several directions were said to be operating on the outskirts of the LTTE’s “political capital” of Kilinochchi town, lying 350 km north of here.
Military experts say the fall of Kilinochchi would deal a major blow to the LTTE politically, militarily and psychologically and they would be cornered in the jungle district of Mullaitivu.
The fresh military gain has come within a week after LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran in his annual speech last week vowed to continue his campaign against the government security forces.
Conceding that the rebel group was “confronted with an intense war as never before”, the elusive rebel leader, however, said the Sri Lankan government was “living in a dreamland of military victory”.
Meanwhile, 70 lorry loads of food items received from India for civilians trapped in the northern war-zone is expected to leave for the rebel-held areas from the northern Vavuniya town Monday.
Nearly 1,700 tonnes of the Indian consignment — consisting of food, clothing and personal hygiene items, which have been packed individually into 80,000 family packs for easy distribution — was handed over to the ICRC a couple of weeks ago to be distributed among the war displaced civilians in the rebel-held areas.