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Sri Lanka says it caused heavy damage to rebels

Sri Lanka says it caused heavy damage to rebels

Sri Lankan soldiers broke through rebel defenses and advanced further into the Tamil Tigers' last remaining territory, inflicting heavy damage on the beleaguered insurgents, the military said Tuesday.
Troops and Tamil Tiger fighters battled throughout the day Monday in the 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) -long strip of land along the northeast coast that remains under rebel control, the military said in a statement. One unit, which had earlier pierced an earthen barrier erected by the rebels, pushed 250 yards (meters) forward, the military said.
It made no mention of any casualties among the estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in the war zone.
Reporters and independent observers are barred from the war zone making the government's claims difficult to verify.
In recent months, government forces have pushed the rebels out of their northern strongholds and vowed to end the nation's quarter-century-old civil war. But international pressure has grown for a cease-fire in the fighting to allow the trapped civilians to flee.
The government has repeatedly refused the appeals, saying it would only give the Tamil Tigers time to regroup.
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told a visiting Canadian government minister Monday that the war was almost over, so a truce was not needed.
"(The) armed forces are on the brink of wiping out terrorism, and they are on a rare mission to establish lasting peace on our war-torn motherland," he said, according to a government statement.
The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for minority Tamils, after decades of marginalization at the hands of governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority.