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'LTTE orphanage was a military camp'

The Lankan Govt says the orphanage was in fact a training camp for LTTE cadres, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2006 16:17 IST

The Sri Lankan government on Tuesday rebutted the Tamil Tigers' allegation that the Air Force had bombed an orphanage called Chencholai killing 61 young girls and wounding 155.

Government spokesmen Keheliya Rambukwela and Brig Athula Jayawardene told the media here, that the so-called orphanage was in fact a training and transit camp for the LTTE's military cadres.

According to Military spokesman Brig Jayawardene, the Head of the LTTE's Peace Secretariat S Puleedevan had said that the LTTE was training 500 cadres in the said camp.

Monday's aerial bombardment of the camp had resulted in the death of 200 to 300 LTTE cadres, he added.

A video of the air raid showed LTTE cadres in uniform fleeing the scene and an ambulance evacuating casualties.

The camp, Jayawardene pointed out, did not look like an orphanage at all or any civilian structure for that matter.

It had the typical structure of a military camp, with outer and inner bunds and barricades. It was in the midst of jungle and had no other human settlements around.

"We have been observing this camp since 2004 and we know all about it, " added Defense Spokesman Rambukwela.

Brig.Jayawardene said that "Chencholai" eight kilometres from Pudukudiyiruppu in Mullaitivu district, had been named after the first female in the Sea Tiger unit to have conducted a suicide attack. 

"The camp was being used as a transit point for cadres going for the on-going military operations in Muhamalai in Jaffna," Jayawardene said. 

When it was pointed out that the UNICEF had said that there was no sign of any military activity in the scene of the bombardment, Rambukwela retorted that the LTTE might not have taken the UNICEF to the right spot.

Even if it was granted that the victims were minors (under 18 years of age) they were soldiers alright, or soldiers under training, Rambukwela and Jayawardene argued.

"They carry guns and are trained to kill soldiers," Jayawardene said.

"You can't expect us to pamper them if they come armed to kill soldiers," added Rambukwela.

The government had enough material evidence to justify the air raid and it would be putting this before diplomatic missions here in Colombo on Wednesday, he added.

Current military situation

As regards the current military situation, Brig Jayawardene said that artillery and mortar shelling was still going on in the Muhamalai sector in South Jaffna.

Since August 11, the army had recovered 79 bodies of LTTE cadres. Another hundred or so, were lying on the LTTE side, he said.

The armed forces were fully in control of Kayts and Mandaitivu islands, the military spokesman said.

"We want the LTTE to keep attacking, so that we can kill more of them," he added.

Palaly airport unserviceable

The Palaly airport, the only civil airfield and Air Force base in the Jaffna peninsula, continued to be under artillery fire from the LTTE.

Fixed wing aircraft were still not able to use the airport, Brig. Jayawardene said.

Jaffna town continued to be under curfew, but it was being relaxed to enable people to attend to some necessities, he added.

Not a suicide bomber

The Sri Lanka Police spokesman Rienzi Perera said that Monday's attack on the Pakistan High Commissioner, Bashir Wali Mohamund, was not carried out by a suicide bomber.

It was a three-wheeler bomb.

Two powerful explosive devices had been placed at the rear of the three wheeler, which were triggered by remote control, Perera said.

No arrests had been made till Tuesday, he added.

Earlier on Monday, the government Information Department had put out a statement saying that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who drove a three wheeler into the High Commissioner's motorcade.

The High Commissioner told the Sri Lankan government that he was thankful for the security provided, and if it was not for the Sri Lankan army escort vehicle which took the brunt of the bomb blast, "the story would have been different."

Reasons for LTTE's attacking the Pak envoy

Defence spokesman Rambukwela said that the LTTE attacked the Pakistani envoy because it was agitated over the increasing defence cooperation between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

He blamed a Sunday newspaper for publishing a list of weapons, which Sri Lanka purportedly wanted to get from Pakistan.

The wish list, first published by an Indian newspaper, was supposedly to the tune of US$ 250 million.