Strategic town ahead of LTTE hub captured: Sri Lanka

By P. Karunakharan, IANS,

Colombo : Sri Lankan troops advancing from various directions towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) political hub of Kilinochchi early Thursday captured the strategically important town of Paranthan after weeks of fierce fighting with the rebels, the defence ministry said in a statement issued here.

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“Paranthan, the LTTE garrison town, was captured by Task Force-1 troops early this morning (Thursday) following hours of bitter fighting with the rebels,” the statement said.

The capture of Paranthan, located approximately 4.5 km north of Kilinochchi along the Jaffna-Kandy A-9 main highway and on the southern sector of another LTTE-stronghold of Elephant Pass, marks the dominance of security forces at the township after a decade.

Kilinochchi, lying 350 km north of here, was considered the political capital of the LTTE till recently.

According to military sources, the battle for Paranthan began in the early hours of Tuesday when the troops backed by armour, artillery and aerial bombardment launched a concerted assault on the garrison town “while the army’s forward domination elements took on the well fortified LTTE resistance positions during surprise manoeuvres made behind enemy lines”.

“Troops have also cut off the vital access routes towards Paranthan along the A-9 highway from north and south, reportedly killing over 50 terrorists, while injuring twice as many numbers during the intense battles,” the defence ministry said.

There was no immediate word from the LTTE, which has been fighting against the Sri Lankan government for a quarter century to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the island.

Thousands have died in escalating fighting since late 2005.