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LTTE loses Mullaithivu

B. Muralidhar Reddy

Rapid advance by military

Tigers confined to Puthukkudiyiruppu, Vishwamadu

Speculation on the whereabouts of Prabakaran

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan military on Sunday announced the capture of Mullaithivu town, the last major settlement of the LTTE in the only district still under its control.

With this loss, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are now confined to Puthukkudiyiruppu and Vishwamadu areas of the district.

There was no word from the Tigers on the military announcement. The fall of Mullaithivu came three weeks after the military marched into Kilinochchi — the administrative and political headquarters of the Tigers. After Kilinochchi, the Tigers lost control of their strategic base at Elephant Pass at the mouth of the Jaffna peninsula and the government gained total control of the A 9 highway for the first time since the departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in 1990.

The rapid advance of the military into Mullaithivu town caught the political and diplomatic circles by surprise.

The manoeuvre was expected to take time in view of the large number of civilians in the war zone, besides thick jungles and lagoons en route, not to speak of a possible do-or-die effort by the Tigers to defend their last citadel.

On Saturday, in a bid to halt the troops, the LTTE blew up the Kalamadukulam tank bund and flooded the low-lying areas. In a statement the Defence Ministry said the troops made a surprise attack across the Nanthikandal lagoon and entered Mullaithivu town.

“Troops have thwarted an LTTE abortive mission to breach the military forward defences,” the Ministry said and maintained that the Tigers used boats to cross the flooded areas.

It said the Tigers also fired artillery and mortar shells at Army positions to slow down relief operations to civilians.

Mullaithivu town is situated in a narrow stretch of land between Nanthikandal lagoon and the Indian Ocean. It has been under the control of the Tigers since 1996 and was considered their main military base.

The focus in the coming days would be on the fate of the civilians trapped in the battle zone and the whereabouts of the LTTE top rung including its leader, Velupillai Prabakaran.

The government estimates that there are one lakh civilians being held hostage by the LTTE.

There has been speculation on the whereabouts of Mr. Prabakaran.

The military believes that the LTTE leader is hiding in the jungles of Mullaithivu and it would not be easy for him to escape.

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