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DateLine Monday, 30 March 2009

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Thousands of civilians flee LTTE grip:

Troops close in on Safe Zone from three directions

Heavy fighting raged in the Puthukudiyiruppu East, Iranapalai East and Palamattalan as troops attached to the 53, 58 and 55 Divisions further close in on the Safe Zone from three directions surrounding the Safe Zone amidst thousands of civilians fleeing the Tiger held area seeking refuge in Security Forces controlled areas, military officials told the Daily News yesterday.

“The Safe Zone has now been surrounded from all three directions and troops are poised to liberate the civilians trapped inside the Safe Zone clearing paths for them to reach Security Forces controlled areas,” a senior military official told the Daily News.

Tiger cadres are now fighting within a one square kilometre stretch in the Iranapalai East, the last build up area under LTTE control at present.

“Heavy fighting erupted in this terrain as 58 Division and 53 Division troops launched simultaneous attacks on Tiger controlled areas cutting off their last available Supply Routes East of Iranapalai from the A-35 road,” a senior military official said.

The official said that the LTTE is continuing their battle in this narrow stretch constructing earth bunds on a daily basis and troops have to overrun each earth bund to capture the area. ”With the capture of this last build up area the troops have to cross water filled paddy lands and the lagoon to reach the Safe Zone which is now within sight from all battlefronts,” the official added.

Military officials were optimistic that civilians would reach the Security Forces controlled areas once troops fully secure the access routes to the Safe Zone from all directions.

According to battleground sources troops of the 53 Division under the command of Major General Kamal Gunaratne and 55 Division under the command of Brigadier Prasanna Silva have reached one and half kilometres closer to the Safe Zone along the Paranthan Mullaitivu A-35 road from the Western direction and Palamattalan from the Northern direction.

The 58 Division under the command of Brigadier Shavendra Silva is operating at a 400 metre stretch across the lagoon in four parallel to the Safe Zone, sources said.

The 55 Division on Saturday advanced 400 metres from the Northern direction towards the Safe Zone amidst heavy resistance from the LTTE from both ground and sea.

Troops attached to the 7 and 6 Vijayaba Infantry Regiment attached to the 553 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Mahinda Weerasuriya captured the LTTE held earth bund in their advance towards Safe Zone.

Intercepted radio transmissions of the LTTE had confirmed that eight terrorists were killed and more than 30 injured d uring the battle on Saturday.

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