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The BBC's Alastair Lawson
"If the army's assertions are true this is a major gain following months of military setbacks"
 real 28k

Sunday, 17 September, 2000, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Sri Lanka army 'recaptures' town
Map showing the Jaffna peninsula
The Sri Lankan army says it has recaptured a key town in the largely rebel-held northern peninsula of Jaffna.

It says the town, Chavakachheri, was taken despite stiff resistance, with the rebels coming under heavy artillery and air bombardment.

There has been no independent confirmation, nor any word from the Tamil Tiger rebels.

The BBC correspondent in Colombo says retaking the town would be a major gain for the government after months of military setbacks.

Chavakachheri lies on the main highway linking the peninsula to the mainland.

A military spokesman said the rebels initially put up stiff resistance but then deserted their posts and ran away.

Resistance

He said four soldiers had been killed and 46 wounded in the fighting.

Sri Lankan soldier in Jaffna
Hundreds died in the recent offensive
Aid workers in Jaffna Town said they could hear heavy fighting taking place on Sunday.

Government forces were driven out of the Chavakachheri area when the rebels mounted a major offensive in April and overran an army garrison at Elephant Pass, the gateway to the peninsula.

The rebels still hold Elephant Pass but the army stalled their swift advances in the peninsula in May.

New arms

The army has recently spent millions of dollars on new weapons to regain lost territory including multi-barrelled rocket launchers, MiG fighters and helicopter gunships.

It launched a campaign to regain the peninsula at the beginning of September, just before campaigning started for parliamentary elections due in October.

Although some territory was regained earlier this month hundreds of soldiers died in the offensive.

The rebels have been fighting for the last 16 years for an independent homeland in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

They controlled the Jaffna peninsula for nearly five years until they were driven out in December 1995.

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See also:

11 Sep 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka army 'pushing forward'
07 Sep 00 | South Asia
Jaffna limps back to life
22 Aug 00 | South Asia
Fears of violence in Sri Lanka
06 Sep 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka dead handed over
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