Army assault 'repelled'

On Saturday, the Sri Lankan military said it had gained control of Pooneryn, another LTTE-held town on the northern edge of the island.

"Mankulam is a psychologically very important place for us to re-establish, because nine years ago the army lost it. The same with Pooneryn," Rambukwella, who is also a cabinet minister, said.

Sri Lankan troops are now preparing an assault on Kilinochchi, the political headquarters of the Tamil Tigers, he said.

Also on Monday, the LTTE said that its forces had repelled an offensive by the Sri Lankan army against its frontlines at Muhamalai on the northern Jaffna peninsula.
 
"Twenty Sri Lanka army soldiers were killed and at least 80 wounded in the fighting," Tamilnet.com, a pro-Tamil website, reported.

Sri Lanka government troops have pushed north since Colombo pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the Tamil Tigers in January.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed since the LTTE began an armed struggle in 1972 to set up a separate region for minority Tamils.