The Sri Lankan army (SLA) on Thursday claimed to have unearthed a stockpile of gas masks and chemical-resistant costumes from an abandoned LTTE camp, triggering speculation that the rebels were either getting ready to launch a chemical attack or face one.
Chemical weapons were not found in the camp located in the north-eastern district of Mullaitivu. But following the discovery, the Lankan defence ministry said that the seizure "exposes a possible terrorist plot for a mass scaled chemical attack against Sri Lankan soldiers."
Sixteen chemical-resistant costumes and 17 gas masks were found in the stock.
"The LTTE have been using chemical gases against Sri Lanka Army during the last two years of battle. However, the inherent limitations of the chemical weapons failed to give the intended impact on the battlefield with soldiers well prepared to meet a chemical threat," the ministry said.
"Experts were of the opinion that the chemical resistant costumes which are indeed used in a much close quarter attack would have been intended for a direct assault supported by chemical weapons. Earlier, the tactic used by the terrorist was to fire gas canisters at the soldiers using indirect weapons than direct weapons," the ministry said.
In another recovery during clearing operations, SLA troops stumbled upon concealed spare parts meant for the aircraft used by the of LTTE.
The spare parts were hidden inside oil barrels unearthed by the troops. Air craft tyres, batteries, engine parts, direction lights and several others accessories were among the items recovered, the ministry said.
The LTTE air wing has carried out eight raids across the country. The last one was in Colombo in which air craft were shot down. Army chief Sarath Fonseka has said that the rebels still possess at least two more aircraft.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said at a function on Thursday that LTTE cadres were now confined in a land area about 20 square kilometers. Technically, they are still in control of at 35 square km area large parts of which are lagoons and water bodies, he added.
On the war front, SLA troops entered the Puthukkudiyirippu hospital on Thursday. The military alleged that the rebels were using the hospital as a hideout.