Sri Lankan troops move on Tiger capital

September 4, 2008 (AFP) – Government forces and Tamil separatists were locked in heavy combat in northern Sri Lanka with at least 26 rebels killed in fresh fighting, the defence ministry said Thursday.

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Six soldiers were wounded and another was missing following the latest clashes with the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) since Wednesday, the ministry said in a statement.

“The LTTE continues to steadily lose manpower as the Sri Lankan security forces continue to advance further into the heart of the LTTE administrative power, Kilinochchi,” the ministry said.

“This is a major set back for the terrorists.”

The military has said that it wants to dismantle the Tigers’ de facto mini-state by capturing the town of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (206 miles) north of Colombo.

Government troops were now said to be within striking distance.

The military on Wednesday evening accepted the bodies of 19 soldiers killed by the Tigers during this week’s fighting that saw security forces capture the strategic town on Mallavi from the rebels.

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