Lankan army 6 km away from last LTTE hideout

Sri Lankan soldiers. Photo Courtesy: AP
Sri Lankan soldiers. Photo Courtesy: AP
Sun-Apr 26, 2009
Making a final push to overrun the last patch of LTTE-held territory, Sri Lankan forces on Sunday captured strategic Vlayarmadam area and encircled remaining six sq km strip of land which is the possible hideout of LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran and his top aides.

"Sri Lankan soldiers have liberated Valayarmadam area and so far rescued 500 civilians held hostage by LTTE from there," the defence ministry said on Sunday.

According to the defence sources, Army Commandos and Special Forces soldiers backed by infantrymen of 10 Sri Lanka Light Infantry and 12 Gemunu Watch last evening entered into Valayarmadam area, located just six km from Vellamullivaikkal, the last remaining LTTE hideout.

"Troops declared the area fully secured this morning," the ministry said.

Meanwhile, LTTE's political head B Nadesan has denied the charges that his group was forcibly recruiting children as fighters to confront the government forces.

"LTTE political head B Nadesan has categorically denied recruitment and arming children as young as 12 to fight alongside the Tigers as alleged by news reports citing the UN," the pro-rebel Tamilnet website said.

The UN Colombo office accusation coincides with the visit of the Emergency Relief Coordinator of the UN and Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes.

Holmes is on a three-day visit to the island to discuss humanitarian situation in the war zone.

Meanwhile, the army rescued 586 more civilians in the no-fire zone yesterday, the military said.

"The 586 civilians exited from the grip of LTTE terrorism and escaped into the troop-held areas in Puthumathalam," the army said.

Meanwhile, four persons were shot dead by suspected LTTE gunmen in the Eastern Trincomalee last night, the ministry said, adding police are conducting investigations.

Troops also clashed with groups of LTTE cadres, still fighting using Tamil civilians as human shield, in general area east of Puthukudiirippu yesterday, military report said.

During the fighting LTTE rebels suffered considerable damages, defence sources said, adding troops also suffered minor injuries during the confrontations. A T-56 weapon was found during subsequent search operation conducted in the area, the report added.

LTTE militants surrender

In yet another blow to beleaguered LTTE, 23 Tamil Tigers manning the rebels' defence line deserted the group and surrendered to the Sri Lankan army.

"As many as 23 LTTE cadres have surrendered so far this morning. They dressed themselves up as civilians and moved towards the army to surrender," Sri Lankan military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara told PTI.

"We expect this to be the beginning and more LTTE rebels are expected to give themselves up," he said.

The LTTE cadres, apprehending the near end of the LTTE's offensives against army, chose to come out and give up as they realised the outfit was on the verge of being wiped out, a defence official said.

The army does not expect more than 700 LTTE cadres in the no-fire-zone near Pudukudiyirippu in Mullaittivu with many being new recruits.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Navy sunk three rebel boats and killed 12 Sea Tigers, a defence ministry official said. While the UN estimates about 50,000 Tamil civilians to be caught in the LTTE areas, the Sri Lankan government puts the figure at between 10,000 and 15,000.

The army claimed that the LTTE hardcore team of about 300 militants guarding the top cadres including its leader V Prabhakaran are demoralised and are in disarray in the no conflict zone in Puthumathalam.