The Sri Lankan army continued its operations against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), killing 25 rebels even as two top European foreign ministers visiting Colombo failed to bring the violence to an end on Wednesday.
The Sri Lankan Navy (SLN) repulsed a pre-dawn LTTE offensive bid, destroying four Tiger suicide boats while sinking another attack craft in the seas off Mullaitivu on Wednesday.
According to the defence ministry, the LTTE launched the initial attack with two craft targeting ground troops. Identifying the LTTE attempt to disrupt the ground advances, the navy’s fast attack craft engaged them in rapid gunfire sinking a Tiger attack vessel. Four more suicide boats launched by sea tigers were also destroyed. The navy’s special boat squadron and rapid action boat squadron elites were also deployed. At least 25 rebels were killed.
Lankan ground forces also captured a 200-metre-long earth bund inside the ‘no-fire zone’, dealing another blow to the LTTE defences.
British Foreign Minister David Miliband and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner came out after a meeting with Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogallagama to say they had failed to convince him to stop the fighting.
Thousands of displaced Tamils are still trapped in the five square km ‘no fire zone’ (NFZ) in the north-eastern district of Mullaitivu. The NFZ is where LTTE’s elusive chief Velupillai Prabhakaran is said to be holed up along with his top aides, including son Charles Antony and intelligence chief Pottu Amman.
“We tried very hard. We insisted and insisted but it is up to our friends to allow it or not,” Kouchner told reporters.
“The international community has been asking for a ceasefire not to save Prabhakaran, but a call to allow civilians to leave, for long term peace in Sri Lanka,” Milliband said.
Captured Tiger rebels denounce LTTE
Two prominent members of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers who surrendered to government troops have made a televised denunciation of the rebels in a major propaganda coup for the island’s authorities.
In a video posted on the Sri Lankan defence ministry’s website, the rebels’ one-time spokesman and another official accuse the Tigers of holding civilians hostage and killing those who try to escape.
“Every point from where people could move away from LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) areas were unfortunately manned by LTTE cadre,” said V.K. Pancharatnam, better known as George, a translator and aide to the Tigers’ late political leader S.P. Thamilselvan.
“People who tried to leave met with violence,” he said, referring to the Sri Lankan military offensive as a “humanitarian operation” — in line with the defence ministry’s portrayal of its blistering offensive.
With inputs from AFP