Scores of civilians, government troops and LTTE cadres were killed and many more were injured, as the Sri Lankan offensive to capture the strategic area of Vaharai in Eastern Sri Lanka from the LTTE continued for the second day on Sunday.
The government said that 40 Tamil Tigers were killed and another 40 were injured. The army, it added, lost two soldiers. Forty personnel sustained various kinds of injuries.
The LTTE said that 30 Sri Lankan Army soldiers, including two senior officers, were killed in the battle over Eechchilapatru in East Sri Lanka on Saturday.
The LTTE did not give casualty figures for Sunday.
Fighting began on Sunday at 6 am when government troops moved towards Vaharai.
By mid day, there was a pitched battle at Panichenkerni, south of Vaharai, the LTTE’s military spokesman, Rasaiah Ilanthirayan, alias Marshall, said.
Artillery shells fired by the army had fallen on the Kandalady school housing Tamil refugees from Patchenai and Vammuivadduvan, killing 10 of them, Marshall said.
On Saturday, the Sri Lankan special forces had started an offensive from the Mahindapura army camp at 5 am, supported by Multi-Barrel Rocket fire from the Kallaru camp.
The troops had broken through the LTTE’s Forward Defence Lines (FDL) and reached Eechchilapatru also called Eechchilampattu, where fierce resistance for several hours resulted in the death of 30 Sri Lankan soldiers.
The army columns were forced to retreat, the LTTE said.
It further said that the retreating troops had fired artillery shells into the villages of Vammivedduvan and Patchenai, killing 15 civilians and injuring thirty five.
The LTTE, in turn, shelled the Kallaru army camp and neutralised the guns there, Marshall said.
On Sunday, the army’s shelling was incessant. Shelling was carried out from the Kallaru, Kadjuwatte, Valaichenai and Karadikulam army camps.
The government hospital at Vaharai had reported 20 civilian deaths by Sunday.
1450 Sinhalas displaced
The fighting had severely affected the majority Sinhala community also, because their villages had been targets of the LTTE’s artillery.
According to the National Security website, 1450 villagers had been displaced by the LTTE’s indiscriminate firing from December 7 onwards.
On December 7, the LTTE had fired shells into the Somadevi school in Serunuwara killing four persons and injuring many children.
The Sinhala refugees are being housed in the Buddha viharas and s