The LTTE on Saturday claimed that it had blunted the Sri Lankan offensive in Vaharai on the border between Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts in Eastern Sri Lanka, even as it sought a ceasefire to enable the resumption of peace talks.
S Elilan, the political leader of the LTTE in Trincomalee district, was quoted by the Tamilnet website as saying that a 300-strong body of regular Sri Lankan troops and an 80-strong force of Tamil paramilitaries (LTTE’s term for the breakaway Karuna group) were “boxed” into a 10 square kilometer area and “defeated”.
Elilan said that a Sri Lankan soldier, KMS Ratnayake of the Gemunu Watch Regiment, was caught alive.
The bodies of seven regular soldiers and five of the paramilitary dead were identified.
The Sri Lankan attack was two-pronged, the LTTE leader said. One was a naval landing at Panichchankerni, and the other was a movement by land from the Kajuwatte camp.
Sri Lankan soldier Ratnayake had told the LTTE that the Karuna group men were wearing a “green belt” in their hands.
Elilan said that the LTTE had offered to hand over the dead to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) but the Sri Lankan government had not permitted the ICRC access to the area.
LTTE had lost 11 fighters in the Vaharai battle, he said.
LTTE withdrew to Vaharai, says Army
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan National Security Media Centre said that the LTTE had withdrawn into Vaharai after getting a beating at Mankerni on friday.
The LTTE had earlier fired artillery and mortars at the Mankerni and Kajuwatte camps of the Sri Lankan Army.
It also blasted the Panichchankerni bridge to prevent the advance of the Sri Lankan troops.
In the counter offensive, the Army had killed 12 LTTE fighters and saw 45 dead bodies on the LTTE-side of the line.
The army lost two men and eight were wounded.
The Military Spokesman of the LTTE, Rasaiah Ilanthirayan said that the Sri Lankan troops had penetrated 1.5 km into LTTE-held territory.
But civilians were quoted as saying that the troops had gone 5 kms in. There was fighting in the Kovilkudiyiruppu area, south of Panichchankerni, they said.
LTTE seeks ceasefire thru Norway
With the Sri Lankan armed forces making deep inroads into LTTE-held territory in the eastern district of Batticaloa on Thursday and Friday, the Tigers’ political leadership wrote to the Norwegian peace brokers to secure a ceasefire.
In his letter to the Norwegian Peace Envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer, the LTTE’s Political Wing leader SP.Tamilselvan said that while his organization had abided by its assurance to cease military operations in preparation for peace talks, the Sri Lankan government was continuing its offensive operations.
Tamilselvan said that it was the moral responsibility of the government to cease firing to create a “conducive environment for talks.”
In response to the adverse military situation developing in both the North and East of Sri Lanka, with many areas under attack from Sri Lankan ground troops and the Air Force, the LTTE’s Defense Council went into a huddle on Saturday.
But the outcome of the discussions was not known.
Talks in jeopardy
Talking to Hindustan Times over phone from Kilinichchi on Saturday, the LTTE’s media spokesman Thaya Master said that going for talks in the midst of a Sri Lankan military offensive was “uncertain”.
However, a decision on this matter was still to be taken.