Sri Lanka Army captures Tamil Tiger's capital of Kilinochchi

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Location map for Kilinochchi town within Kilinochchi District.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa called on Tamil rebels (LTTE) to surrender to end the quarter-century of civil war and their struggle for a separate homeland amid the capture of Iranamadu junction, town of Paranthan. He claimed that the recapture of Kilinochchi on Friday is a unparalleled victory against terrorism and separatism. "The time is not far off when people of the north can breathe freedom again, we should pay the gratitude of the whole nation to those heroic soldiers who achieved that victory," Rajapaksa said. The President further appealed for the release of civilians in Vanni.

The downfall and liberation of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam' mini-state, de facto and administrative capital Killinochchi is a fatal blow to the rebels' 25-year struggle to create an independent state for the Tamils, an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu, a state in India, and the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka. They predominantly speak Tamil, with a recorded history going back two millennia.

In November 2008, the Sri Lankan Army launched an attack on Kilinochchi from three directions. LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran said he promised to defend his stronghold by reverting to guerrilla-style, hit-and-run attacks. "No sane voice is being raised either to abandon war or to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict," Prabhakaran said.

Tamil rebels in a pickup truck in Killinochchi in 2004

The Battle of Kilinochchi lasted between November 2008 and January 2009 as part of the SLA Northern offensive when the Sri Lanka Army assaulted the Tamil Tiger capital and stronghold. The military announced on Friday it had gained control of the town as the rebels moved towards Mullaitivu, a small town on the north-eastern coast of Sri Lanka, and the capital of the district with the same name in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. The rebels struggled since 1983 to establish an independent nation for the Tamils. The conflict resulted in more than 70,000 deaths.

Meanwhile, a suspected suicide attack near the Sri Lanka Air Force headquarters in Colombo killed two airmen and a member of the bomb-disposal unit, and wounded 37 others, three of them critically, just an hour after the President delivered his speech. According to air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara, the 37 injured were 16 airmen.

Sri Lankan Army's air force jets and Mi-24 helicopter gunships bombed rebel targets near Oddusuddan and Mullaitivu towns Saturday, when the military closed into the rebels' military headquarters. Government soldiers troops also advanced further to recapture the Elephant Pass which was seized by the Tamil Tigers in April 2000, killing hundreds of soldiers. The strategic Pass, at the Northern Province is located at the entrance to the Jaffna Peninsula which military wrested from rebel dominion in 1995. The rebels however claimed that "the Sri Lanka army has entered a virtual ghost town as the whole civilian infrastructure as well as the centre of the LTTE had shifted further northeast." Troops of the 59 Division attacked the LTTE's coastal garrison, south of Mullaittivu, where the battle had already begun. The siege reportedly killed over two dozen Tamil rebels.

Using the strategic crossroads of Paranthan Junction, the Sri Lankan Army's forces advanced Sunday in hot pursuit to capture the Tamil Tigers' last strongholds. It launched both ground and air assault on Elephant Pass to the north and Mullaittivu to the east. "Day by day, the Tigers' territory is shrinking and their numbers are dwindling. The objective of finishing this war won't be that long off," said Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian Chandrakanthan Chandraneru of Tamil United Liberation Front, called on the Sri Lankan government to bring in a political solution, since the war will continue despite the capture, unless the ethnic crisis is solved. “Everybody is now saying that the east is currently an open prison where people can neither walk nor talk freely. Same thing will happen to Tamil people in the north,” he added.

Mano Ganesan, MP, leader of the Western People's Front (former WPPF) declared that "political solution to the national ethnic question after the total military victory is not acceptable to the Tamil people. This contention would not convince the international community too. This is the hard truth."

State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid asked the Sri Lankan government to respond to the Tamil concerns. The Tamil Tigers had been "one of the most notorious and brutal terrorist organizations over the past 20 years," and "a peaceful dialogue is what is called for to resolve the differences and legitimate concerns of the Tamils," he said.

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  Learn more about Battle of Kilinochchi (2008–2009) and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on Wikipedia.