About 6,000 Muslims (approximately 1000 families) have fled Mutur in the Eastern Sri Lankan district of Trincomalee in the last 48 hours, unconvinced by the LTTE's "denial" that it has asked Muslims to quit Mutur in view of a military offensive it is planning to launch.
"Those who can afford to leave are leaving, because they have no faith in the LTTE's verbal denial," a source in Trincomalee town told Hindustan Times on Sunday.
The LTTE's Peace Secretariat broke its silence on Sunday and said that it was the Sri Lankan government which had distributed the leaflets to divert international attention from the massacre of ten Muslims in Pottuvil in Amparai district.
"Muslim parliamentarians are standing firm on their call for an international investigation (into the Pottuvil massacre). The Sri Lankan government needed to turn the heat away from this case. The Mutur leaflet is the answer they have come up with," said the Director General of the LTTE's Peace Secretariat, S Puleedevan.
Having "very successfully" diverted international attention, the Sri Lankan military was preventing the Muslims from leaving Mutur saying that the Security Forces were going to give protection to them, the LTTE official said.
The absence of a formal denial for 48 hours and the blackout of news about the leaflet and the exodus in the LTTE and pro-LTTE media had made the people of Mutur wonder if the LTTE was indeed the author of the leaflet.
"The people remember that there was a similar leaflet some weeks before the LTTE's last assault on Mutur on August 2," said Rauf Hakeem, the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC).
The LTTE was in occupation of Mutur for about three days in August, and in the fighting over the town, many were killed and over 40,000 people, mostly Muslims, were displaced.
The people of Mutur and military experts in Colombo believed that the LTTE planned to attack Mutur town and its environs again, as part of an effort to re-capture the strategically vital Sampur.
People in Trincomlee were saying that the LTTE Supremo Velipillai Prabhakaran had ordered his Eastern Commander, Col Sornam, to re-take Sampur in a combined land and sea operation, "come what may".
Some observers said that this operation might be attempted before the monsoon sets in fully in mid October.
The LTTE's alleged plan would have been hampered if there were a population in Mutur, especially a Muslim population, which it considers unfriendly and pro-government. Hence the warning to vacate the place, it was said.
The government, on the other hand, would want the Muslims to stay. The presence of a population, especially a Muslim population, would be a deterrent to the LTTE.
This was the reason why the police were preventing the Muslims from moving out. Those who were heading for safer places like Kantalai and Kinniya were asked to go back.