July 12, 2007 (AFP) – Tamil Tiger rebels have admitted losing a key stronghold in eastern Sri Lanka to government forces and said they would revert to guerrilla tactics in the troubled region. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighters melted away from Thoppigala, a mountainous jungle area they dominated for over 13 years, rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan told the BBC.
Tamil forces who remained in the east had gone into “guerrilla” mode, he said, adding that “winning the war was not about taking control of real estate.”
Sri Lanka’s government claimed Wednesday it had captured the “nerve centre” and last remaining Tamil Tiger stronghold in the eastern district of Batticaloa following months of intense combat.
The island’s president, Mahinda Rajapakse, paid tribute to troops for the advance, which coincided with a fresh effort by peace broker Norway to pull Colombo and the ethnic Tamil rebels out of a worsening spiral of violence.
“I join the people in offering tribute and all good wishes to the members of the armed forces, police and the Special Task Force who… captured the last stronghold of the terrorists located at Thoppigala,” the president said.