Tigers fight on to the last in Jaffna

TIM McGIRK

Colombo

After a month of fighting the Tamil Tigers, thousands of Sri Lankan troops yesterday advanced into the rebel city of Jaffna. A military spokesman in Colombo, however, said the government forces were one and a half miles from Jaffna's centre and had run into stiff resistance from the Tigers.

Even before the Sri Lankan army began its final assault on Jaffna, this was already a city disfigured by war. Two previous onslaughts against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) - first by Sri Lankan forces in 1987 and then by Indian peacekeepers in 1990 - had ravaged the old colonial town.

Shells, bombs and mortar rounds had blown the heads off statues and ripped the wings off stone angels. Churches and once-grand libraries were destroyed; they look like bleached shipwrecks beside the glimmering Jaffna lagoon. Now, Sri Lanka's second-largest city is being convulsed by another round of destruction.

The defence minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte, said: "The Tigers are destroying the town, knowing that they will soon lose it to us." Officials claim that over 320 soldiers have died so far in the assault while the rebels have lost more than 1,500 men.

Backed by tanks, artillery barrages and air power, the government troops yesterday captured a key junction at Nallur, a 400-year-old Hindu temple surrounded by houses and coconut groves.

A military spokesman said 24 soldiers were killed along with 145 rebels when the government forces overran the Tamil Tiger bunkers. However, a communique issued by the LTTE claimed that 52 soldiers died in the fighting.

To slow the Sri Lankan advance, the Tiger rebels laid booby-traps so that the houses blew up when soldiers stepped inside. The explosions then allowed the rebels to mortar the oncoming troops with lethal accuracy. Officials said that by yesterday afternoon, the government troops had thrust in, forcing the rebels to flee from the Hindu temple crossroads.

In Colombo, Sri Lankan officials claim that Jaffna may fall within the next 48 hours. But the army's victory may be more symbolic than practical. Apart from the rebels, there may be only one soul left behind in Jaffna: a Catholic bishop who has refused to leave his mission.

The rest of the city's 300,000 inhabitants fled the Sri Lankan offensive and are huddled in refugee camps at the far end of the Jaffna peninsula. The Tigers are trying to prevent Tamil civilians returning to areas now under government control. The "Voice of the Tigers" radio yesterday ordered refugees, hungry and feverish after three weeks of monsoon rains, to flee to the mainland, which is still under control of the Tiger chief, Vellupillai Prabakharan. The rebel strategy is to let the government conquer the land but not its people.

The LTTE is fighting for an independent homeland in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka for the Tamils who are ethnically different from the majority of Sri Lankans, the Sinhalese. Since 1990 the Tigers have ruled Jaffna as a separate country, with their own courts, taxes, schools, postal service and rebel army led by squads of fanatical suicide commandos.

Some of the moderate Tamil parties in Colombo are urging Sri Lanka's President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, to declare a ceasefire against the Tigers, but the generals are counselling her to crush them.

One pro-government daily, The Island, commented yesterday: "The only way out is to de-fang or kill the Tiger." To that end, a reward of a $50,000 (pounds 32,250) reward has been offered for anyone who tells the army where the elusive Mr Prabakharan is hiding.

Vanquishing the Tamil Tigers is not easy, even when the Sri Lankan army conquers Jaffna. As a guerrilla leader, Mr Prabakharan is reckoned to be a brilliant tactician, one who beguiles his commandos - many of them teenaged boys and girls - with propaganda on the nobility of dying in combat.

The Sri Lankan forces are finding out that trying to defeat the Tigers is like trying to hold water in a fist; as the government advances into Jaffna, the Tigers are vanishing into the jungles along the eastern coast.

On Sunday, Tigers attacked an army patrol and killed 38 soldiers near Batticaloa, hundreds of miles from Jaffna.

Suggested Topics
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game