Army-LTTE combat continues in Lanka | india | Hindustan Times
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Army-LTTE combat continues in Lanka

The heavy fighting in Mutur region destroyed civil installations and a rural hospital, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Aug 05, 2006 17:52 IST

The on-going war in the Eastern Sri Lankan district of Trincomalee spread to Mutur, when the ground forces of the LTTE, supported by artillery and mortar fire from Sampur, stormed the area in the wee hours of Wednesday.

But the Sri Lankan Army said that by noon, the attack had been repulsed and that the intruders were in the process of withdrawing.

In the heavy fighting, the Telecom tower, the Mutur police station and a few other civil installations were damaged. The Tiger intruders also robbed the Mutur bank, the army said.

Two hospitals, one in Trincomalee and the other in Serunuwara, were damaged in the shelling.

According to the Army, 40 LTTE cadres were killed and 50 were wounded. The retreating attackers carried their dead back with them.

The LTTE claimed that Gandhi Nagar and Pala Thoppu localities were captured, and four detachments of the army at Kaddaiparichan, Pala Thoppu, Pachchanoor and Mahindapura were over run.

LTTE units then entered Mutur town and reached the jetty linking Mutur with Trincomalee town across the Koddiyar Bay.

A Sri Lankan army spokesman confirmed that Mutur, Kaddaiparicchan, Selvanagar and Mahindapura were attacked with "heavy weapons and mortars". But maintained that the attack was repulsed.

He said that much of the destruction in Mutur town was caused by the "withdrawing" LTTE cadres.

"We are in the process of clearing the area of the LTTE," the spokesman told Hindustan Times.

The ground operations of the Security Forces in Mutur were being assisted by artillery fire from the Trincomalee naval base across the Koddiyar Bay, he said.

The Mutur region is divided between the government forces and the LTTE, with the LTTE controlling Mutur-East.

Mutur is separated from Trincomalee harbour and town by the Koddiyar Bay.

As regards the operation to secure the Mavil Aaru dam from the LTTE, the Army said that progress was being hindered by heavy mining and booby trapping of the area by the LTTE.

Tamil sources said that the army had not been able to advance even 500 metres from their forward camps.

Both sides claim to be fighting "humanitarian war"

Just as the Sri Lankan government's Defense Spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwela, described the last seven days of aerial bombing of targets in the North Eastern Province as a "humanitarian operation", the LTTE's Defence Spokesman, Ilanthirayan, said that the attack on Mutur was a "humanitarian operation" to stop government forces from attacking civilian areas "indiscriminately.

"There was an urgent need to neutralise the Sri Lankan military's attacks on civilian targets," Ilanthirayan said on Wednesday.

The government's spokesman had been saying that the aerial and ground attacks were meant to fulfill the humanitarian task of releasing water for farmers from the Mavil Aaru dam which the LTTE had inhumanly blocked on July 20.

Indian oil tanks safe

The Lanka Indian Oil Corporation's giant oil tanks in China Bay, to the North West of Mutur are not in the line of fire, experts said.

India has 9 out of the 99 tanks built by the British during the Second World War. Out of the nine, only one or two are actually used, officials said.

The tanks were built to withstand shelling and aerial bombardment.

Manmohan-Rajapaksa talk on phone

The Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa spoke on the phone on Tuesday about the deteriorating military situation in Sri Lanka, The Morning Leader reported.

The telephonic conversation was at the initiative of the Sri Lankan President, the paper said.

According to the report, Rajapaksa explained how denial of water to farmers by the LTTE had led to the air strikes and other military actions against it, and Dr Singh in turn called for a "speedy resolution to the dispute" to ensure that the population was not displaced.

But the state-owned Daily News said that Rajapaksa had called Dr Singh primarily to thank him for sending Indian planes to repatriate 324 Sri Lankan workers stranded in war-torn Lebanon. The Sri Lankan President briefed Dr Singh on the military situation also.