Sri Lanka moves to take key highway inside Tiger territory: military

December 5, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops leading a heavy offensive against Tamil separatists have secured parts of a key highway running through rebel-held territory, the defence ministry said on Friday.

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Security forces cleared a stretch of 21 kilometres (13 miles) of the main A-9 highway in an area that had been in no-man’s land after the latest military thrust, defence officials said.

With troops securing the town of Kankarayankulam, the de-facto frontier post shifted deeper into rebel-held areas, the ministry said.

Government forces are on a major offensive to capture the Tamil Tiger political capital of Kilinochchi and have opened several fronts to mount pressure on the guerrillas.

The ministry said last week the fall of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (200 miles) north of Colombo, was imminent, but government troops have since been slowed down by monsoon rains and flooding.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam admitted losing ground to government troops but their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, has vowed to fight on.

The guerrillas, who began their s