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Sri Lankan army advances on rebels

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Capture of Iranamadu junction "will open easy capture" of town, military says
  • Capture of junction comes a day after taking Paranthan, just north of Kilinochchi
  • Kilinochchi was until recently rebel capital, until separatists moved center to Mullaitivu
  • No immediate response from the Tigers to the military's announcement
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(CNN) -- The Sri Lankan army captured a key junction in territory previously held by Tamil Tiger rebels, according to a statement on the Sri Lankan military's Web site.

The army captured the "notorious" Iranamadu junction south of the Tiger stronghold town of Kilinochchi Thursday, a day after capturing the town of Paranthan, four kilometers (2.5 miles) away, the statement said.

Both towns are located along the A-9 highway that connects mainland Sri Lanka to the northern Jaffna peninsula.

"This will open easy capture of the Iranamadu town at any moment from now onwards," the military said.

The seizure of Paranthan and the Iranamadu junction are the most significant gains made by the Sri Lanka Army after they re-captured Pooneryn, located on the southern fringe of the Jaffna lagoon. An advance by troops north of Paranthan would take them to the rebel stronghold of Elephant Pass, while a southerly advance will lead them to the re-capture of Kilinochchi.

Kilinochchi, 579 kilometers (360 miles) north of Sri Lanka's capital Colombo, was until recent months the center of political power for the rebels.

There they ran a virtual "parallel administration" with their own "police force, prisons, law courts, tax collection machinery" among others. As the military began their advance towards this sector, the rebels moved their logistics bases to the adjoining Mullaitivu district, parts of which face the northeastern coast.

Army sources told CNN there was heavy fighting between troops and rebels on Wednesday as the former tried to continue their advance crossing the A-9 highway.

"When we break through and move further, it could be a terrible blow to the rebels," one source added.

There was no immediate response from the Tigers on the fall of Paranthan. Pro-rebel Web sites alleged that Air Force sorties in areas dominated by them had also hit civilians -- a charge denied by the military.

The media are not allowed into battle areas.

The Tamil Tigers have fought for independence for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority for 25 years, a conflict that has left more than 65,000 dead. The group has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

Journalist Iqbal Athas contributed to this report.

All About Sri LankaLiberation Tigers of Tamil EelamKilinochchi

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