Jaffna battle: 75 SL soldiers killed

Other reports quoting unnamed military sources put the figure of the Army dead at 35.

india Updated: Oct 11, 2006 23:30 IST

The Sri Lankan Armed Forces' offensive in the Muhamalai sector, launched early on Wednesday, has apparently been blunted by the LTTE's stiff resistance.

A spokesman of the Scandinavian-staffed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) told Hindustan Times that the LTTE had informed the monitors that it would like to hand over75 bodies of Sri Lankan soldiers to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday.

The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website said that the bodies were lying in Kilaly, a coastal village in Thenmarachchi.

The government's National Security website had admitted 22 deaths. It put the number of wounded at 113.

Other reports quoting unnamed military sources put the figure of the Army dead at 35.

According to the LTTE, it lost six fighters in the battle which had raged throughout the day from 6.30 am.

The government blamed the LTTE for starting the hostilities with an artillery and mortar barrage against the Forward Defense Lines of the Army on the Nagarkovil-Muhamalai-Kilaly sector, south ofJaffna.

The LTTE's fighters had infiltrated into the government-held area, the National Security Media Unit said.

The Army retaliated with artillery and mortar fire and simultaneously called for Naval and Air support.

The Navy and the Air Force took on identified LTTE targets.

Though the LTTE put up "fierce" resistance, the Army was able toadvance several metres south of its Forward Defense Lines.

However, as the day wore on, the scales tilted in favour of the LTTE.

Apparently, the LTTE had been able to push the Army back to its original positions.

While the LTTE described the Army's operations as an "offensive", the government said that the operations were purely "retaliatory" in response to unprovoked aggression by the LTTE.

The LTTE had been complaining that the Sri Lankan Army was amassing troops and equipment in the Muhamalai sector for a major offensive.

Apparently, the target was to capture Elephant Pass and Pooneryn, further south.

The LTTE had warned that it would review its decision to go for talks with the Sri Lankan government in Switzerland on October 28 and 29, if the Army were to continue its military operations and amass troops for a new offensive in the Muhamalai area.

Wednesday's fighting, one of the most intense in recent times, has seriously jeopardised peace talks.

First Published: Oct 11, 2006 23:30 IST