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Sri Lankan Military Seizes Jaffna from Rebels

The Sri Lankan military says it has taken total control of the northern Jaffna peninsula, one of the Tamil rebels' last remaining strongholds of power.

The military says it seized control of Chundikkulam village Wednesday after a deadly battle with the rebels.

The rebels have not responded to the announcement, and journalists blocked from the war zone have not independently verified the military's claim.

If confirmed, the capture of Jaffna would deal a crippling blow to the rebels.

The military has been pushing hard into rebel territory in northern Sri Lanka over the past several weeks, and seized the separatists' administrative capital, Kilinochchi, last month.

The Sri Lankan Defense Ministry says only a small portion of the northeastern Mullaittivu district remains in rebel hands.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 to establish an independent homeland for the Tamil ethnic minority in Sri Lanka's north and east. They say Tamils are treated as second-class citizens by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict.

The United States says the separatists are part of a terrorist organization. But Washington has called for a peaceful dialogue to resolve what it terms the "legitimate issues of the Tamils."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.