Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Sunday, 5 April 2009 10:59 UK

Army 'routs Tigers in north-east'

By Anbarasan Ethirajan
BBC News

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Sri Lanka's military says it has taken all rebel-held territory in the north-east and pushed the Tamil Tigers into a no-fire zone set up for civilians.

The government-designated safe zone is estimated to be about 20 sq km of coastal area in Mullaitivu district.

A military spokesman said the bodies of more than 400 rebels killed in fighting the last few days had been recovered.

There is no word from the rebels on the latest clashes, and no independent confirmation of the military's account.

It follows weeks of ferocious fighting.

'Significant milestone'

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told the BBC more than 400 rebels had been killed in the fighting in the Puthukudiyiruppu region in the past few days.

1976 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam form in the north-east
1987 India deploys peace-keepers to Tamil areas but they leave in 1990
1993 President Premadasa killed by Tiger bomb
2001 Attack on airport destroys half Sri Lankan Airlines fleet
2002 Government and rebels agree ceasefire
2005 Mahinda Rajapakse becomes president
2006 Heavy fighting resumes
2009 Army takes main rebel bases of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu

"The senior LTTE commanders, Vidusha, Theepan, Nagesh, Durga and Gaddafi have been killed in the fighting," Brig Nanayakkara said.

If the army's claims are true then this will be a significant milestone in the offensive against the Tamil Tigers.

Now the rebels will be forced to fight back from the safe zone and if that happens aid agencies have warned that there will be heavy civilian casualties.

There has been no reaction from the rebels and it is not possible to independently confirm the government's account as journalists are not allowed to report from the conflict zone.

The clashes between the two sides have intensified in recent weeks as the security forces are in what they say is a final push to defeat the the rebels and end nearly three decades of conflict.

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