The Sri Lankan government is optimistic that its troops will soon capture the Tamil rebel headquarters in the north of the country. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi on the government's military offensive to crush the Tigers, who have fought for over two decades for an independent Tamil homeland.  

Sri Lankan defense spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, says the military is on the verge of capturing Kilinochchi - the administrative and political capital of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the north. He says troops are attacking from different directions.

"In as far as Kilinochchi, the main thrust is on, we are just on the outskirts and we are very positive," Rambukwella said.  "We are now breaking and penetrating into their earth banks and their defense. We have penetrated few of them and we are around it? I would say the military is very positive on moving in. It is imminent. I would say that."  

The army also says that it is closing in on the north eastern coastal town of Mullaittivu, around which much of the rebel forces are concentrated. 

But for the time being, all eyes are on Kilinochchi. Analysts say the government is anxiously waiting for the fall of Kilinochchi, which is a key target of the massive military offensive mounted earlier this year in the north to crush the Tamil Tiger rebels, and end their quarter century long struggle for an independent Tamil homeland.

Independent verification of the status of the fighting is difficult because journalists and aid workers are barred from the conflict zone.

But the rebels have been steadily losing ground in recent months. Recently the military cleared Tamil Tiger bases from the northwestern coast.

Defense spokesman Rambukwella is optimistic that the military offensive will loosen the grip of the rebels, and help the government clear large areas in the north, where they virtually run their own state.  

Rambukwella says the government hopes to replicate what it did in the east - evict the rebels from their bases, and restore government authority.   

"It will be like the east - it will be much more comprehensive than the east," Rambukwella said.  "That will be a positive step toward clearing up. We are confident in bringing democracy."  

The rebels have not commented on the army's claims, but their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is expected to make an annual policy address on Thursday.