LTTE rebels say they are pushing closer to Jaffna town

LTTE rebels say they are pushing closer to Jaffna town

COLOMBO, May 11 Kyodo

The Tamil rebels said Thursday they are pushing closer to the Jaffna town and government troops have vacated their positions in the suburbs of what would be the capital of an independent Tamil homeland.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said in statement released in London that Sri Lankan army positions in Maniyanthottam, Ariyalai and Colombuthurai, three small villages in the suburbs of Jaffna, have been vacated.

The LTTE troops were attacking army positions at Pungankulam in the vicinity of the Jaffna Kachcheri late Thursday afternoon and government troops are pulling out from the area, the statement said.

The LTTE said civilians living within artillery and mortar ranges in the coastal suburbs of Jaffna have moved out of their homes on orders from the rebel forces.

In Colombo, government spokesman Ariya Rubesinghe refuted an LTTE claim Wednesday that the rebel forces had captured the key Navatkuli bridge just 3 kilometers from Jaffna town.

Rubesinghe said the army is still defending the Navatkuli bridge but acknowledged that the LTTE has taken control of 1 km of the a key highway leading to Jaffna town.

To raise funds for the war effort, the Sri Lankan government said Thursday it is raising the National Defense Levy by 1%, to 6.5%.

The government, which has been battling the Tamil rebels since 1983, has also announced a raise in the prices of cigarettes and liquor.

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