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Sri Lankan Troops Enter Rebel-Held Village

Sri Lanka's military says troops have pushed into one of the few remaining rebel-held villages. Meanwhile, defense officials are warning the Tamil Tigers might try to carry out an attack on the capital during the country's most important religious holiday.

Heavy combat is reported in the last strip of land controlled by the rebels on the country's northeast coast.

Defense officials say soldiers overran an earthen fortification of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Commanders say that should help ease the capture of the remaining four square kilometers of territory held by the LTTE.

Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara tells VOA News Army troops, using only small arms, have had to advance slowly in the past two weeks because the rebels have placed anti-personnel mines and deployed exploding vehicles and suicide bombers.

"They came and exploded themselves but then we could identify them before they got closer to our troops," said Nanayakkara. "Therefore we could minimize our damage and they lost eight suicide cadres."

The military is not releasing casualty figures for its troops.

Authorities say many Tamils - estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000 by the United Nations - are being held as human shields by the rebels.

The military says only 43 civilians have managed to escape across a lagoon or on to the sea since Wednesday morning.

Nearly 200,000 Tamils have fled the warfare and are in temporary camps, according to U.N. figures.

The Defense Ministry has released on its web site what is says is a captured LTTE video showing rebel fighters forcing civilians to help the Tamil Tigers. Officials say the tape proves the LTTE is deliberately putting civilians in the line of fire of advancing government troops.

The military and police say they are taking added security precautions as the country begins celebrating the Vesak Buddhist holiday.

Brigadier Nanayakkara says there may be sleeper cells of suicide bombers intent on disrupting the festival to demonstrate the Tamil Tigers still have the ability to strike in other parts of the country.

"A large number of people are expected to gather around Colombo during this festival period. We have made necessary arrangements to prevent any kind of LTTE attempts to explode bombs targeting innocent civilians," he said.

The LTTE, considered a terrorist organization by numerous countries, has waged a violent campaign for a quarter century attempting to split the island nation, which is dominated by the Sinhalese majority, and establish a Tamil ethnic homeland.