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Road reopening brings relief to Tamils

Two roads to the LTTE-controlled area in the Wanni region of North Sri Lanka were reopened on Wednesday, bringing relief to an estimated 350,000 Tamil civilians, reports PK Balachandran.

world Updated: May 30, 2007 15:28 IST
PK Balachandran

Two roads to the LTTE-controlled area in the Wanni region of North Sri Lanka were reopened on Wednesday, bringing relief to an estimated 350,000 Tamil civilians who were bottled up in the Wanni region since the entry/exit points at Omanthai and Uyilankulam were closed on May 22.

The reopening was announced by ICRC chief Toon Vandenhove and the LTTE's military spokesman, Rasiah Ilanthirayan alias Marshall in separate press statements.

The checkpoints were closed on May 22 when the ICRC withdraw its personnel from there for security reasons. Military operations had begun on the Vavuniya-Mannar road and in the Madu region in Mannar district in North West Sri Lanka.

However, A9, the road which links Vavuniya with Jaffna in the North, through LTTE-held Wanni, remains closed at the Northern end. The entry-exit point at Muhamalai, just south of Jaffna, is still closed.

And it is unlikely to be opened for a long time because the Sri Lankan Army strongly feels that opening Muhamalai will result in the LTTE infiltrating the Jaffna peninsula easily and heavily.

Currently, there is no land route to Jaffna from the South. Goods and people are taken by sea from Trincomalee. A few take the much more expensive air route. Two private companies run daily air services between Ratmalana near Colombo, and Palaly near Jaffna.

LTTE's appeal to civilians

Meanwhile, the LTTE appealed to civilians not to travel along with Sri Lankan Armed Forces personnel.

"In case they are forced to travel with the Sri Lankan Armed Forces we advice them to lodge a complaint with any of the international humanitarian agencies in that area," the LTTE's military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said in a statement on Tuesday.

Ilanthirayan recalled that three civilians from Akkaraipattu in Amparai district, who had been "forced" to board a Sri Lankan Special Task (STF) vehicle and driven into an LTTE-controlled area were killed in an ambush by the LTTE on May 27.

Among the dead were five STF personnel.

"We strongly condemn the irresponsible behaviour (of the armed forces)," Ilanthirayan said.