Sri Lanka military says smashing major Tiger defences

October 19, 2008 (AFP) – Troops and Tamil Tiger rebels were locked in intense fighting in northern Sri Lanka Sunday after government forces smashed through the “last major defences” of the guerrillas, the military said.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launched “poisonous gas attacks” to blunt the military offensive aimed at capturing the rebels’ political capital of Kilinochchi, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Soldiers stepped up their offensive on Saturday and captured a two-kilometre (1.25-mile) stretch of the defence line set up by the Tigers near Kilinochchi, the ministry said.

It said the fighting was at Akkarayankulam, about 13 kilometres southwest of Kilinochchi. Three weeks ago, the military had said it was within striking distance of Kilinochchi.

“Army’s 57 division troops yesterday pierced the LTTE-built earth bund in Akkarayankulam, the terrorists’ last major defence south of Kilinochchi,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

It said the Tigers “launched poisonous gas attacks” on the troops. Military sources said that the Tigers had used a type of tear gas commonly used during riot control.

“However, troops withstood the chemical attack and beat o