B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: The military on Saturday claimed at least 11 LTTE cadre were killed and 21 others injured “as intense fighting” broke out between troops and LTTE at Akkarayankulama, on the outskirts of Kilinochchi.

Two days ago, the Army had said troops were 3.5 km away from Kilinochchi and were facing resistance from the LTTE cadre operating out of their administrative headquarters. On Saturday, it said at least one military unit was 2 km away from the LTTE-held town.

A Defence Ministry statement said that troops of the 57th Division confronted elements of the LTTE “head-on during their forward push” into Kilinochchi.

It said the soldiers were assisted by Air Force jets and helicopters.

Helicopter gunships continued air assaults at an LTTE bunker line northeast of Akkaryankulama tank bund.

“The 4th Sinha Regiment infantrymen have now marched and positioned 2 km within the southern perimeters of Kilinochchi town, forcing a probable defeat to LTTE, [its] worst since the fall of Mallavi and Thunukkkai.” The Ministry further said the Army continued neutralising LTTE fortifications, gathering points, and artillery and mortar launching pads with multi-pronged attacks.

Pro-LTTE TamilNet has said a key sluice transporting water to agricultural lands in Wanni sustained damage due to bombing by the Air Force near Kilinochchi. The website claimed that the bombers also attacked a civilian settlement near Vettimanai, a counselling centre.

However, the Air Force insists it is bombing only “well identified” targets of the LTTE and takes precautions to protect civilians trapped inside the war zone.