November 9, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops were close to capturing a key road to the northern peninsula of Jaffna after months of heavy fighting, the defence ministry said Sunday. Heavily armed units have pushed along the coastal road to Jaffna, which had been cut off from the rest of the island by Tamil Tiger rebels in control of the area to the peninsula’s south, the ministry said.
“The military surge continues with strong determination to liberate the strategically important 90-kilometre (56-mile) coastal stretch,” the ministry said in a statement.
Military sources said fighting raged overnight in the region with both sides suffering casualties, though no details were available.
Jaffna, an area of 2,300 square kilometres (900 square miles) was taken from the Tigers in 1995, but the lack of land access meant that it has had to be supplied via expensive sea and air routes.
President Mahinda Rajapakse last week urged the Tigers to surrender, saying they would be brought to their knees unless they stopped fighting.
But the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website said on Sunday the Tigers had reiterated their own long-standing appeal for a truce.