Sri Lanka fighting spreads to key highway near Tiger HQ

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (L) and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe gesture as Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake (unseen) presents a supplementary budget to parliament, marking the first economic policy statement of the new government which came to power earlier in the month in Colombo on January 29, 2015. Sri Lanka's new government announced hefty taxes on top companies in a bid to raise revenue, accusing the previous regime of fudging the figures and leaving the economy in a "sad state". AFP PHOTO / Ishara S. KODIKARA (Photo credit should read Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

November 23, 2008 (AFP) – Helicopter gunships attacked Tamil Tiger rebel positions in northern Sri Lanka as battles shifted onto a key highway leading to the rebels’ political capital, the defence ministry said.

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Helicopters were deployed to pound rebel bunkers that make up the western defences of the town of Kilinochchi, the political headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the ministry said.

“Sri Lanka army offensive divisions… are now marching towards Kilinochchi built up in three frontiers,” the ministry said. “Pitched battles are going on.”

One of the columns was marching on Kilinochchi from the southern flank and heavy fighting raged along the main A-9 highway that runs through the six-kilometre (four-mile) length of the town, the ministry said.

Troops were engaged with Tiger rebels in the Therumurikandi area, 10 kilometres (six miles) south of the town centre, the ministry said, adding that guerrillas had built an earth barrier around Kilinochchi in a bid to block the military advance.

“The air raids were launched on Saturday evening in