April 21, 2009 (AFP) – The Sri Lankan army on Tuesday seized more territory from the Tamil Tigers as the rebels ignored a government deadline to surrender, the defence ministry said. The attack saw government forces effectively slice the last small strip of jungle held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in two, and came as tens of thousands of civilians fled the fighting.
“The LTTE has not responded to the government’s call to surrender, so we are keeping up our offensive to rescue the civilians,” military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said as the 0630 GMT Tuesday deadline passed.
The government says its troops are now poised to totally defeat the LTTE, a hardened guerrilla group that has been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland on the ethnic Sinhalese-majority island since the 1970s.
The defence ministry said over 39,000 men, women and children managed to escape after troops punctured rebel defences at Puttumatalan, inside the rebel-held area, on Monday.
It also said 17 civilians who tried to escape from rebel-held territory on Monday had been killed by the guerrillas while another 373 had been wounded.
The pro-rebel Tamilnet website