Sri Lankan forces on Thursday fought their way to just 800 meters from the area where an estimated 10,000-15,000 Tamil civilians are trapped along with the top leaders of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The government troops pushed into the rebel-held village of Karayamulliavaikkal, advancing over areas heavily mined by the Tigers and fighting off attacks from their suicide bombers.
A military spokesman said the troops had breached through the last earthen fortification, bringing them as close as 800 meters of the area in Mullaitivu, where the LTTE [ Images ] leadership is holed up in the midst of Tamil civilians. The spokesman said the Tigers are deploying suicide bombers in large numbers to slow down the Sri Lankan army.
Though estimates are not available, military sources say that between 500 to 1,000 hardcore Tiger rebels have formed a last wall of defence around Tiger supremo V Prabhakaran and others. The LTTE has built the earthen fortification to delay the Lankan troops.
"LTTE rebels are desperately attempting to hold the security forces' advance by launching indiscriminate indirect firing and using their heavy weapons mounted in the No Fire Zone," the defence ministry said, quoting military officials.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama had earlier said that more pressure must be brought upon the LTTE by the international community.
Meanwhile, clashes continued in the Vellamullivaikkal area in near the NFZ when advancing troops met with LTTE resistance.
Troops also conducted search operations in Ampalavanpokkanai, Nelwelikulam, Kuppilankulam, Waduvakkal, Murusumudai and Nachchikuda areas and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunitions, the army said.