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Separatists' capital falls to government

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lankan forces captured the Tamil Tigers' de facto capital yesterday, winning a major victory in a decades-long battle to destroy the ethnic separatists and crush their dream of establishing an independent state. The rebels, who still control 620 square miles of northeastern jungle, swiftly sent the message that they would fight on. They carried out a suicide attack near air force headquarters in the capital, Colombo, killing three airmen and wounding 37 other people, authorities said. Sri Lanka's ethnic minority Tamils have long complained they are treated as second-class citizens. The Tamil Tigers have been blamed for scores of attacks and are listed as a terror group by the U.S. and European Union. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has vowed to destroy the group, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, announced the fall of the city, Kilinochchi, in a nationally televised speech. Celebrations erupted across Colombo, where people flooded the streets, dancing and setting off firecrackers.

Historic Khyber Pass supply route reopened

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: A crucial land route for military supplies to Western troops in Afghanistan was reopened yesterday by Pakistani authorities, three days after being closed because of fighting between the Pakistani army and Islamic militants. But the reopening of the road through the historic Khyber Pass was unlikely to mark an end to bold attacks by militants who have beset the route, making shipments of NATO materiel increasingly untenable for the past two months. Previous efforts by Pakistani troops to subdue militants in the tribal area known as the Khyber agency have proved short-lived. During a similar offensive last year, militants decamped before the troops arrived and filtered back once the soldiers pulled away.

Impeachment vote could come next week

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.: Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is telling lawmakers to be prepared to vote on Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's impeachment next week. The move illustrates the dynamic playing out as leaders in Springfield and Washington pursue the same goal: denying a U.S. Senate seat to former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, Blagojevich's post-arrest pick to succeed Barack Obama. State lawmakers are accelerating impeachment proceedings with the idea that the new governor, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, could pick a senator without taint. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has revoked Blagojevich's access to classified federal security information, officials said yesterday. The move withdraws the governor's access to classified information, although Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero said other individuals within state and local government have access and the head of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency has usually been the main contact in emergencies.

Denver schools chief likely to fill Senate seat

DENVER: Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. is expected to name Denver public schools Superintendent Michael Bennet to fill a Senate vacancy that will be created by the promotion of Sen. Ken Salazar to interior secretary in President-elect Barack Obama's administration, sources told the Associated Press. One source close to the governor who is in a position to know and another source in the Democratic Party said Bennet is Ritter's choice. Both spoke on condition of anonymity. Ritter scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m today to introduce his pick. Bennet had been mentioned as a possible choice for Obama's education secretary, but Obama chose 44-year-old Arne Duncan, chief executive officer of Chicago public schools, for the post. Salazar will stay in his seat until he's confirmed as interior secretary, which could take several weeks.

Wal-Mart plans store near Va. battlefield

LOCUST GROVE, Va. : Wal-Mart wants to build a Supercenter within a cannonshot of where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant first fought, a proposal that has preservationists rallying to protect the key Civil War site. A who's who of 253 scholars and historians including filmmaker Ken Burns and Pulitzer Prize-winner David McCullough sent a letter last month to H. Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., urging the company to build somewhere farther from the Wilderness Battlefield. Wal-Mart and its supporters point out that the 138,000-square-foot store would be behind a bank and a small strip mall, a full mile from the entrance to the site of the 1864 clash that hastened the war's end. Local leaders also want the $500,000 in tax revenue they estimate the big-box store will generate for rural Orange County, a gradually growing area about 60 miles southwest of Washington.

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