COLOMBO: At least forty Tamil Tiger insurgents were killed on Wednesday, the government military said as the Air Force and ground troops pushed further into the north to take control of rebel held Killinochchi and Muhamalai regions, days after a rampage of LTTE attacks in the south killed around thirty civilians and wounded over one hundred and twenty.

Air Force fighter jets pounded LTTE leaders’ gathering place in Thiruvaiaru, one kilometre north west of Iranamadu, on Wednesday morning a day after fighter jets shelled a nerve centre of the rebels in Killinochchi, the army website said. Officials stated that air raids targeted the LTTE’s “Area Commanders Office and Communication Base” hours after fighter crafts bombed another administrative center in territory controlled by the guerillas.

Separately, seven Navy personnel were believed to have been killed and their craft sunk on Tuesday following a fierce sea battle with suspected Tamil Tiger guerrillas off the island’s northwest coast, sources said. The clashes had erupted when LTTE Sea Tigers had taken cover behind a fleet of Indian fishing boats to attack the naval craft.

Meanwhile, fearing retaliatory attacks by the Tiger guerillas in Colombo the government declared that all schools in the Educational Zone of the capital will remain closed during this week. The zoo in Colombo was also declared out of bounds for visitors for a week following a bomb blast on Sunday that injured four persons.

Security vigilance in Colombo reached unprecedented levels after telephone calls were made by an alleged Tiger front organisation operating in Colombo to several media organisations warning of more strikes in the city just prior to Monday’s Independence Day Celebrations.

The caller had identified himself as a member of the Ellalan group, an offshoot of the LTTE operating in Colombo.

Just minutes after the call intelligence officials said they had raided the mobile phone user’s registered address on Galle Road in Colombo.

Meanwhile analysts and military strategists point out that the holding of the Independence Day celebrations at the Galle Face promenade as planned, and without any incident at the ceremony venue is seen as a victory for the government.

The possibility of air strikes by the guerillas targeting President Rajapakse and other officials present at the Galle Face celebrations were among the fears revolving around the Independence Day event but the fact that no such attack took place meant that military surveillance monitoring both ground and air movement was high, authorities point out.

Officials said following a tip off warning that around 19 explosive laden suicide jackets were on the verge of being bought to the capital, a thorough security sweep through out the country had managed to locate around seven of them.

Analysts say the modus operandi of the Tamil Tigers would be to target civilians as well as destroy public infrastructure.

Early Wednesday an electricity sub station with a capacity of 33,000 kilo watts was destroyed in an explosion in Arachchikattuwa, Chilaw. The sub station provided electricity to over 5000 business places and 20 prawn farms, authorities said.

An army spokesman termed the LTTE attacks in the south as ‘desperate acts by desperate terrorists’ as military officials predicted the fall of several LTTE northern bastions as it intensified the thrust on northwestern Mannar, Muhamalai and Weli Oya.

The military has downplayed casualty numbers on its side and denied heavy death toll of its soldiers in the present phase of the war, which the government has promised to be the LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran’s ‘last war.’

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