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Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 14:09 UK

S Lanka army 'close' to key town

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The Sri Lankan military says it is pushing ahead with an offensive against Tamil rebels as it advances on their northern headquarters of Kilinochchi.

Medics say that a 41-year-old civilian died in shelling south-west of the town. The air force carried out raids in the district and to the east.

About 250,000 people have been displaced by the fighting and many are heading to areas still in rebel hands.

The UN and other aid groups pulled out of rebel-held territory on Tuesday.

The government last week said that it could not guarantee their safety.

Aid workers say many displaced people in the north are now heading from the Kilinochchi area to the coastal town of Mulaittivu, which remains firmly in rebel hands.

KILINOCHCHI TOWN
Displaced Tamils in Kilinochchi
The capital of Kilinochchi District, it is part of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka
Serves as the administrative centre and headquarters of the Tamil Tigers
Rebels have their own judiciary and police force in the town
According to the UN, 90% of population is Tamil
Town surrounded by thousands of landmines, says the UN
Town has high rates of infant mortality and malnutrition
Government ordered aid agencies to leave, Sept 2008

The army says that troops are continuing to destroy rebel bunkers and are now only 5.5km (3.4 miles) away from Kilinochchi.

The air force, meanwhile, says that it has targeted a "location frequented" by Tiger leader Prabhakaran in Vaddakachchi in Kilinochchi district.

"Pilots confirmed the location was completely destroyed," air force spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara said.

However the pro-rebel Tamilnet website said that the bombs hit a densely-populated settlement of displaced persons.

It quoted residents who accused the air force of "indiscriminate bombardment" of displaced people fleeing to safer areas. Two people were reported to have been wounded.

The air force spokesman also said there had also been an air raid on a rebel ammunition depot in the Mullaitivu district.

Correspondents say that the air force has flown near daily raids against the rebels over the last three months as it steps up its offensive to capture the north.

Human rights groups say that both sides have been responsible for murders and abductions in a war that has killed 70,000 people and is one of South Asia's longest-running and most persistent insurgencies.

Key rebel bases have fallen since the government began its latest offensive and the army says the Tigers have been driven from the east.

The government does not allow independent reporters into conflict areas, and many lines of communication to the north have been cut.

Asked if he planned to obliterate the Tigers, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa told foreign correspondents on Monday that the military would try, but it would take time.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been fighting for a separate Tamil homeland in the north and east for 25 years.


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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
New StatesmanTamil Tiger trap - 1 hr ago
ABC Online Aid workers pull out of Nth Sri Lanka - 5 hrs ago
Gulf News Lanka bombs Prabhakaran's hideout - 12 hrs ago
Bangkok PostMilitary: Passengers escape bus blast in Sri Lanka - 41 hrs ago
Reuters U.N. staff begin leaving Sri Lanka war zone - 49 hrs ago
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