Sri Lankan troops advanced yesterday on the military headquarters of the Tamil Tigers, a day after capturing the rebels’ de facto political capital in the north of the island.
The Sri Lankan Defense Ministry said forces were moving towards Mullaitivu, the jungle district along the northeastern seaboard, where the Tigers are known to have their main military facilities.
“The battle for Mullaitivu has already begun,” the ministry said in a statement.
The air force used Mi-24 helicopter gunships to carry out two bombing raids yesterday in support of the advancing ground troops, a military spokesman said.
He said 10 such missions were carried out on Friday.
The ministry said that government troops were also moving further north of their positions in Kilinochchi in a bid to retake the strategically vital Elephant Pass, which was lost to the Tigers in April 2000.
Elephant Pass lies at the entrance to the Jaffna Peninsula, which security forces wrested from rebel control in 1995.
On Friday, after months of intense fighting, the military finally captured Kilinochchi, where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had gathered all the political trappings of a mini-state.
Military officials said the fall of Kilinochchi had cleared the way for security forces to re-establish control over a vital highway linking the northern Jaffna Peninsula with the rest of the country.
Jaffna, which has a population of nearly half a million people and a considerable military presence, used to be supplied by air and sea because the Tigers controlled the land route.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse called the army’s capture of Kilinochchi an “unparalleled victory” for the entire nation and urged the rebels to lay down their arms and end their decades-old struggle for a separate homeland.
Street celebrations took place in the capital Colombo and elsewhere as news of the town’s capture broke.
But just hours later, a suspected Tiger suicide bomber attacked an air force base in the capital Colombo, killing at least two airmen and injuring 36 others.
The Tigers admitted losing Kilinochchi, but argued that the town had been abandoned rather than captured.
“The Sri Lanka army has entered a virtual ghost town as the whole civilian infrastructure as well as the center of the LTTE had shifted further northeast,” the Tigers said through the pro-rebel Tamilnet Web site.
While losing Kilinochchi is a major setback, the Tigers have shown in the past that they have the ability to rebound.
The Tigers initially lost Kilinochchi in 1996 and retook the area two years later and controlled it till they were driven out on Friday.
Barely six months after government troops captured the northern Jaffna Peninsula in 1995, the Tigers overran a military base in Mullaittivu, killing more than 1,200 soldiers.
The guerrillas also reversed military gains of 19 months in a matter of five days in November 1999, going on to dislodge the military from their Elephant Pass base at the entrance to Jaffna.
In his annual speech in November, LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran vowed to defend his territory and suggested that the rebels would revert to guerrilla-style, hit-and-run attacks as their area shrank.
The Tigers have been labeled a terrorist group by the US, the EU and India, but had the backing of the international community when Oslo-backed peace talks got under way in 2002.
The peace process virtually ended when the government formally pulled out of a moribund truce last January.
The Sri Lankan conflict over the Tigers’ demand for a separate Tamil homeland has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1972.
THE ANSWER? The drug uses neutralizing antibodies produced by the human immune system, which the team isolated from the blood of 60 recovered patients A Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug it believes has the power to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a halt. A drug being tested by scientists at Peking University could not only shorten the recovery time for those infected, but even offer short-term immunity from the coronavirus, researchers said. Sunney Xie (謝曉亮), director of the university’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, said that the drug had been successful in animal testing. “When we injected neutralizing antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500,” Xie said. “That means this potential drug has [a]
‘SERIOUS QUESTIONS’: Three US senators sent a letter to the US commerce secretary asking whether the project ‘takes into consideration national security requirements’ US Senator Chuck Schumer and two other Democratic colleagues have written to top US administration officials asking for details of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd’s (TSMC) plan to build a US$12 billion fab in Arizona. Hsinchu-based TSMC on Thursday last week announced that it would build a plant to make 5 nanometer chips by 2024 that would have the capacity to produce 20,000 semiconductor wafers per month. The world’s biggest contract chipmaker already has one chipmaking fab in Camas, Washington, and design centers in Austin, Texas, and San Jose, California. It said it planned to start construction in Arizona next year and
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
MOM’S LONG CAMPAIGN: Mao Yin had been brought up in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, without any idea that he was the target of a decades-long, high-profile search A Chinese man who was stolen from his family as a toddler has been reunited with his parents after 32 years. Mao Yin (毛寅), then two-and-a-half years old, was snatched in 1988 when he was walking home from nursery with his father. His parents finally embraced him again on Monday in Xian, where he was born. After Mao vanished, his mother Li Jingzhi (李靜芝) quit her job and launched a decades-long search for her son, that included sending out more than 100,000 flyers and appearing on numerous TV shows. That long campaign helped 29 other families find their own missing children and made