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Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Sri Lanka army 'in fresh advance'

Cluster bomb allegedly used by the Sri Lankan air force
The Tigers accused the air force of cluster bombing displaced people

Sri Lanka's military says it has recaptured a key northern town near the Tamil Tigers' Kilinochchi stronghold.

They say that troops took Kokavil, 20km (12 miles) south of Kilinochchi, on Sunday, 18 years after it was seized by the insurgents.

The army said its fall meant the rebels had lost "another bastion".

The pro-rebel TamilNet website has accused the air force of dropping cluster bombs at a camp for internally displaced people.

Military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara did not give casualty details in relation to the fall of Kokavil and there has been no comment from the rebels.

Correspondents say the capture of the town is the latest indication of the government's supremacy in the Sri Lankan war, in which the rebels have been forced to abandon large tracts of land and retreat further and further into their north-eastern heartland.

A statement on the defence ministry website said that 18 years ago Kokavil was defended by Lt Saliya Upul Aladeniya, the last officer in charge of the isolated camp, who defended it for a month with only two platoons and no reinforcements before it was overrun by rebels in July 1990.

KEY DATES IN THE WAR
1983: 13 soldiers killed in one of the first rebel attacks
1990: Indian troops leave after unsuccessful peacekeeping mission
1991: Tamil Tigers assassinate Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi
1993: President Premadasa killed in Tamil Tiger attack
1998: Rebels capture Kilinochchi
2000: Rebels capture key Elephant Pass base
2001: Rebel attack on Colombo airport
2002: Ceasefire leads to inconclusive peace talks
2005-2008: Fighting intensifies in north and east

In separate skirmishes, army snipers killed three rebels in the northern Jaffna peninsula on Sunday and Monday, a defence ministry statement said.

TamilNet meanwhile says the air force carried out "indiscriminate" and "genocidal" cluster bombing on a camp for displaced people in the north.

It says that three civilians, including a child, were killed in the weekend raid and says that at least 17 people - including women and children - were injured.

"We are living in constant fear not knowing when the bombers will strike again, and where we should run," a resident of the camp told TamilNet.

There has been no comment from the government on the issue.

Last week the army said that the capture of Kilinochchi was imminent.

Kilinochchi is the rebels' de facto capital in the north and troops have been attacking it from three directions for more than a week.

The defence ministry also said last week that its soldiers were closing in on Mullaitivu, where the rebels are believed to have concentrated their forces following recent army advances elsewhere in the north.

The rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland for Tamils in the north and east since 1983 and 70,000 people have died in the violence.

On Thursday the Tigers' leader Velupillai Prabhakaran said that the government was living in "dreamland" if it expected outright military victory.

MAP OF THE REGION
Map of northern Sri Lanka




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