Sri Lanka fighting spreads to key highway near Tiger HQ

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