MBO (AFP) - Sri Lankan security forces captured two Tamil Tiger guerrilla camps after heavy fighting in the island's northeast, the military said Saturday.
Government forces have been steadily advancing into the remaining territory held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the coastal district of Mullaittivu. "Sri Lanka army Task Force Four operating in the Puthukkudiriruppu south yesterday (Friday) captured two LTTE camps located in the area," a military statement said.
The Tiger rebels, meanwhile, hit back by blasting a dam, which released a large volume of water from an irrigation tank at Kalmadu in Mullaittivu district, the defence ministry said.
"Terrorists have used high explosives and triggered the detonation, flooding a section of the A-35 main road at Dharmapuram and Visuamdu," the ministry said. The military did not say if it had suffered any casualties in the latest fighting.
Sri Lanka's army chief, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, said earlier this month he aimed to crush the Tigers by April, when the country marks the traditional Sinhala and Tamil New Year. The Tigers have not commented on the fighting, but the pro-rebel Tamilnet.com website had accused the military of shelling civilians trapped inside rebel-held areas.
Meanwhile, a statement released by the US embassy here has said that the continuing attacks against journalists in Sri Lanka show the deteriorating conditions media workers face in the country.
In the statement, US State Department acting spokesman Robert A. Wood said the United States was appalled by ongoing physical attacks and threats against the media in Sri Lanka, where government troops and locked in combat with Tamil separatist rebels.
It comes a day after the editor of a weekly paper, Upali Tennakoon, was stabbed and wounded outside the capital Colombo while he and his wife drove to work.
Earlier this month another newspaper editor was shot dead near Colombo.
"These serious reports are disturbing indicators of the deteriorating atmosphere for media independence in Sri Lanka," the US statement said.
"We call on the government of Sri Lanka to protect all of its citizens by enforcing law and order, preventing intimidation of the media, and by conducting swift, full, and credible investigations into attacks on journalists and other civilians."
According to official figures, nine journalists have been killed in the past three years, while 27 have been attacked. The government has promised investigations, but no one has been brought to justice.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has asked foreign diplomats in Colombo to "weigh in forcefully and immediately" to put an end to attacks on Sri Lanka's media.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has asked Sri Lanka's government to drop terrorism charges against another journalist, J. S. Tissainayagam, and two of his colleagues, who have been held since March 2008.
"Tissainayagam's arrest was politically motivated and his detention has involved a litany of due process violations," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"The prosecution of journalists only reinforces the impression that the government has embarked on a systematic campaign to smother free media."
Earlier this month, attackers torched a privately owned television station that had been labelled "unpatriotic" by sections of the state media for its coverage of the island's long-running ethnic conflict.