Sri Lankan troops fighting Tamil rebels took full control yesterday of the highly strategic Elephant Pass, a causeway linking the Jaffna peninsula with the northern mainland, a government official said.
The capture of the pass, which the Tamil Tigers held since April 2000, is another huge blow to the movement after the fall of their political capital Kilinochchi last week.
It means the military now controls a 142km stretch of the vital A-9 highway and can supply troops and nearly half a million civilians in Jaffna, the government spokesman said.
He said the causeway fell to government soldiers advancing northward from Kilinochchi and another column that moved south from earlier army defenses.
“They have established full control over Elephant Pass today after entering the south of the area four days ago,” he said.
There was no comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The Tigers had dislodged the military from Elephant Pass in 2000 and held a 100km stretch of the A-9 route, forcing the military to use expensive air and sea transport instead to supply Jaffna.
Officials said Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse was likely to issue a statement late yesterday congratulating troops for retaking Elephant Pass and establishing control over the A-9, which would now serve as a main supply route.
The Sri Lankan military launched its biggest-ever ground offensive against the LTTE in March 2007, since when the rebels have seen their territory shrink rapidly.
They are now almost totally confined to the jungle district of Mullaittivu in the northeast, where some 300,000 civilians are also living.
Separately yesterday, four civilians and three security personnel were killed in Trincomalee when a powerful roadside bomb struck their bus in an ambush by suspected Tiger rebels.
A military official said troops were escorting the bus when it was hit.