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Sri Lanka military seizes key northern peninsula

 A police officer stands guard as Red Cross workers bury the bodies of Tamil rebel fighters in a cemetery in Vavuniya, about 210 kilometers (131 miles...
 Red Cross workers bury the bodies of Tamil rebel fighters in a cemetery in Vavuniya, about 210 kilometers (131 miles) northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka...

Sri Lanka Civil War

A police officer stands guard as Red Cross workers bury the bodies of Tamil rebel fighters in a cemetery in Vavuniya, about 210 kilometers (131 miles...

Sri Lanka Civil War

Red Cross workers bury the bodies of Tamil rebel fighters in a cemetery in Vavuniya, about 210 kilometers (131 miles) northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka...

Sri Lankan government forces seized a final strip of Tamil Tiger rebel-held land in the north Wednesday, securing control of the symbolic heart of the 25-year separatist insurgency, the military said.
The country's defense secretary meanwhile accused sections of the media of being "terrorists" trying to save the rebel group from the brink of defeat.
The Jaffna peninsula is the cultural capital of Sri Lanka's ethnic minority Tamils. The army taking full control of the territory after nine years is a strategic and major symbolic victory for the government.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said all of Jaffna was secured when the soldiers captured Chundikkulam village. Last week, troops captured the Elephant Pass base, the insurgents' final stronghold on the peninsula.
Nanayakkara said the rebels retreated with their dead and the military did not suffer any casualties.
Rebel officials could not be reached for comment.
Sri Lanka's military started this year on a high, seizing the capital of the rebels' de facto state, securing Elephant Pass and forcing the retreating fighters into a small territory in the northeast.
Humanitarian groups say some 230,000 civilians were crammed into the remaining rebel-held district, Mullaittivu. The rebels said they could only protect the civilians if they voluntarily moved to the district, but Human Rights Watch has accused the rebels of preventing people from fleeing the area.
Nanayakkara said nearly 800 civilians had defied rebel threats and fled Mullaittivu on Wednesday, entering territory recently captured by government forces. He said about 1,700 people have sought protection from the government so far.
Authorities say they hope to finally crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the coming months.
Sri Lanka's Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said in a nationally televised interview Wednesday that some journalists are in fact "terrorists" who have taken up the profession for a shield for their activities.
His comments came at a time the government faces criticism over increasing attacks against independent media.
On Jan. 6 more than a dozen men armed with assault rifles raided a private TV and radio network and blew up its control room, destroying much of its equipment. Two days later a newspaper editor who was a harsh critic of the government was shot and killed as he drove to work on a busy street near capital, Colombo.
Foreign governments have condemned these attacks, and human rights groups said the government has created a climate of impunity for attacks on perceived critics.
Rajapaksa accused the TV/radio company that was gutted of being the "voice" of the rebels and claimed that it burned its own control room to create an international outcry against the government and as a ploy to claim millions of rupees from insurance.
According to Amnesty International, at least 14 journalists and Sri Lankans working for the media have been killed since the beginning of 2006. Others have been detained, tortured or have allegedly disappeared, while another 20 have fled the country after getting death threats, the London-based rights group said.
"If we have imprisoned any of the so-called journalists it's only because their names have been implied in our investigations," Rajapaksa said.
"These people are no real journalists but they became journalists to carry out terrorist activities."
Rajapaksa also blamed local media rights groups for having fought and secured the release of a female journalist accused of sheltering a Tamil Tiger rebel suicide bomber in 2007. The reporter was detained by police without trial for months but the Supreme Court found no reasonable grounds for her detention and ordered her released.
"Because of these free media campaigners this terrorist woman is roaming free today," Rajapaksa said.
The rebels are fighting to establish an independent state for minority Tamils, who have suffered marginalization at the hands of successive governments controlled by majority ethnic Sinhalese.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.


Updated : 2021-02-26 12:39 GMT+08:00