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Lankan army heads towards Mullaitivu

world Updated: Jan 05, 2009 20:51 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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Standing at the cross-roads of Paranthan, a town located in the neighbourhood of Killinochchi, Brigadier Shamendra Silva was looking eastwards with hands on his hips.

"That is the road our soldiers are now marching on in the direction of Mullaitivu," he said as tanks and armoured vehicles rolled by. Nearby scores of infantry soldiers and commandoes were standing in the shade of torn-apart shops, getting precious moments of breather from the heat and dust of a Lankan December.

Pointing to the north, Silva then said, "and in that direction lies Elephant Pass, our other target."

By late Sunday evening, the soldiers had marched towards the east and fought hard enough to capture the town of Oddusuddan, on route to Mullaitivu where the LTTE have fled. Hundreds of their colleagues from other regiments were already fighting the LTTE in and around the town.

"Troops of 14 Sinha Regiment (SR) commanded by Major USNK Perera under command to 642 Brigade commanded by Lt. Colonel BT Hathnagoda entered the Oddusuddan town following days of fighting in the area," the defence ministry said.

Silva would be more pleased because the soldiers of Task Force 1 (or 58 division), who are under his direct command, also progressed towards the strategic Elephant Pass, located north of Kilinochchi district. The Pass is important because it links the northern main land known as Wanni with the Jaffna Peninsula in the extreme north. While Jaffna town has been under the army since 1995, the LTTE won the Elephant Pass after a major battle in 2000.

"Troops of the Task Force-1 have reached the southern outskirts of Elephant Pass, the South most LTTE stronghold in the Jaffna peninsula after series of heavy clashes with the terrorists," the military said.

"Our aim is to cause maximum attrition. Our soldiers have fought hard, sometimes staying in water for hours, often without shoes. We will go for maximum kills. Currently, we are killing 10 LTTE (cadres) for every one soldier killed," Silva said.

The Sri Lankan army has pushed in more than 30000 soldiers into Kilinochchi and surrounding areas. Makeshift camps have been set up all over the town and soldiers have put up roofs on houses to make them their temporary homes.

The biggest army camp is just outside the town in what was intended to be a sprawling technical institute affiliated to the Jaffna University. The construction could not be completed and now it houses soldiers from 57 and 58 divisions and the Sri Lanka Light Infantry.

Outside the town also lies an abandoned cemetery, a new one adjoining the old one. The new one with rows and rows of newly laid cemented graves is completely devoted to the LTTE cadres killed in action. ``They burn the dead but then bury them to make a statement to its supporters that in death you get respect. It is an obsession,'' an army officer said.