Jaffna: The Tamil cultural capital turned killing field

Aug 21, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops and Tigers are locked in fierce fighting over Jaffna, but analysts say the arid peninsula is of little real value to either party except as a symbol. Yet, more blood has been spilt over Jaffna than any other region in Sri Lanka.

The latest fighting, which began 10 days ago despite a truce in place for the past four years, has seen at least 600 combatants killed on both sides according to an official count.

Government troops are using artillery and war planes to stall a rebel advance on the Jaffna peninsula, regarded by minority Tamils as their cultural home.

For the government it is the fountainhead of Tamil separatism.

Security forces took control of Jaffna, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of the capital Colombo, after a 50-day offensive in December 1995 and since then the region has also been an “Achilles’ heel” for the troops.

The military scored a psychological victory by capturing the former de facto Tiger state, but ended up having to feed 350,000 civilians and 40,000 soldiers using expensive sea and air transport, both vulnerable to Tiger attacks.

The Tigers control the only land access to Jaffna, linked to the rest of the