Sri Lanka troops take more rebel bases after fresh offensive

COLOMBO, Feb 25, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops seized at least four bases from Tamil Tiger strongholds in the northeast in the past week, the defence ministry said Sunday, in fighting that has forced thousands to flee. The LTTE has not commented on the military’s claim, but on Thursday night announced they were relaunching their “freedom struggle” to “achieve statehood.” The ministry said troops, backed by artillery and multi-barrel rocket launchers, captured four bases of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in the Trincomalee district following the offensive launched on Thursday.

“The LTTE terrorists have now withdrawn further north of Trincomalee,” the ministry said in a statement. “Search operations and the consolidation of positions by the army are still continuing.”

A Tiger spokeswoman said thousands of Tamil civilians living in the area — afraid of being caught in the crossfire between rebels and military — have fled in droves.

In the past week, security forces advanced from their bases in the coastal district of Trincomalee, 260 kilometres (160 miles) northeast of the capital, the ministry said.

The fresh violence coincided with the fifth anniversary of a Norwegian-arranged truce tha