December 5, 2008 / 10:02 AM / 9 years ago

Sri Lanka says captures 100 rebel boats

By Ranga Sirilal

COLOMBO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s military said on Friday it had captured more than 100 small boats used by the separatist Tamil Tigers, after soldiers seized a coastal village while marching toward the last big port held by the rebels.

Soldiers captured Alampil on Thursday after heavy fighting on the east coast, where the army’s 59th Division is trying to take the port of Mullaitivu controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the military said.

"Troops recovered 100 fibreglass boats and 560 live rounds in Alampil," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. Alampil is about 10 km (6 miles) south of Mullaitivu.

The rebel "Sea Tiger" wing has long operated around the coasts of the Indian Ocean island nation, ferrying weapons and ammunition and staging suicide attacks on government targets.

The military believes the Tigers have shifted many of their fighters and weapons to Mullaitivu. A heavy contingent remains dug in at Kilinochchi, the self-declared rebel capital that troops are advancing on from three directions.

Soldiers have been battling toward Kilinochchi since September and the military last week said it was on the verge of capturing it, but torrential monsoon rains stopped the advance.

Tiger leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran said in his annual address last week Sri Lanka’s military was in a dreamland if it thinks it will win, and vowed to fight back.

With downpours easing, combat operations have resumed, the military said. The Air Force said jets bombed rebel positions in Kilinochchi on Friday but gave no details of casualties.

The LTTE could not be reached for comment. Independent confirmation is all but impossible since both sides limit media access to the war zone.

Kilinochchi is a strategic target for a government that has made the most military progress of any in one of Asia’s longest modern insurgencies.

It is also a symbol of the separate state the LTTE has been fighting since 1983 to create for Sri Lankan Tamils.

Many from the Tamil minority complain of discrimination by every government since independence from Britain in 1948, every one of them led and dominated by the Sinhalese ethnic majority. (Writing by Bryson Hull; Editing by Paul Tait)

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