Sri Lanka says capture of remaining Tiger base in east imminent

June 20, 2007 (AFP) – The Sri Lankan army said Wednesday that two months of fighting aimed at ousting Tamil Tiger rebels from jungles in the east of the island has left 197 dead, the vast majority of them guerrillas. The island’s security forces have been trying to remove pockets of rebels from the Thoppigala jungles and areas near the eastern town of Batticaloa, with strategists hoping the Tigers would then be confined to the north.

“In the operation to capture Thoppigala since April, 188 Tigers have been killed and 133 wounded,” said army spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe. “Security forces suffered nine killed and 78 wounded.”

No independent confirmation of the casualty figures were available, and there was no immediate comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Both sides, however, routinely inflate enemy casualty figures.

Samarasinghe said the LTTE base in the jungles near Batticaloa would be under government control “in the next few days.”

“With the capture of Thoppigala we would eliminate their control over the local population and prevent the conscription of child soldiers,” Samarasinghe said. “This is a big setback for the Tigers in the east.”

He claimed government troops h