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LTTE areas bombed for second day

The attacks were in retaliation to LTTE's closing of the sluice gates of the Mavil Aaru dam, reports PK Balachandran.
None | By PK Balachandran, Colombo
UPDATED ON JUL 28, 2006 02:04 PM IST

Sri Lankan Air Force jets bombed LTTE-controlled areas in the North-Eastern province for the second day on Thursday in a spat over water, even as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres was in the island urging the warring parties to stop the violence and take Confidence Building Measures (CBMs).

On Wednesday, Kfir fighter bombers had attacked the Verugal river region in Trincomalee district.

And on Thursday, they attacked Keppapulavu in Mullaitivu district in North Sri Lanka.

Both attacks were in retaliation for the LTTE's closing the sluice gates of the Mavil Aaru dam since July 22.

The dam supplies water to 1,500 mostly Sinhala people, cultivating over 30,000 acres of paddy land.

The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website reported that there were three raids over the Verugal region between 4.30 pm and 5.20 pm on Wednesday.

On Thursday, at about 9.30 am, jets dropped bombs on Keppapuvalu, 7.3 kms west of Mullaitivu, where the LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran has his command headquarters.

The Sri Lanka Air Force has been carrying out retaliatory strikes against identified LTTE targets since April 25, when a female rebel suicide bomber made an abortive attempt on the life of the Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka inside the Army HQ in Colombo.  

The government Peace Secretariat said in a statement on Wednesday, that the closure of the sluice gates was in "blatant contravention of international law," and in violation of the Ceasefire Agreement.

On Thursday, the LTTE's political leader for Trincomalee district, S Elilan, said that it was not the LTTE, but the people of the Verugal river area who had closed the sluice gates of the Mavil Aaru.

They did so to protest against the government's refusal to supply water to the LTTE-held areas in Mutur East, he said.

The Nordic truce monitors subsequently mediated, and an agreement was reached. But before this could be implemented, the Air Force began bombing the Verugal region, Elilan complained.

He condemned the aerial bombing as a "blatant violation" of the Ceasefire Agreement and added: "We have now decided to reconsider our decision to lift the water blockade."

UNHCR's appeal

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said that if he was visiting Sri Lanka even in the midst of the crisis in Lebanon, it was because the international community wanted to give top priority to the return of peace in Sri Lanka.

Guterres said that his appeal to stop the violence, take CBMs, ensure Human Rights, and work towards the return of refugees to their original areas of habitation, got an encouraging response both from the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the LTTE's political head, SP Tamilselvan.

Seeks role in India

On what he planned to do to improve the appalling condition of the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu, Guterres said he was trying to get the Indian government to sign the relevant Geneva Protocol so that the UNHCR could function in India as it did in other countries.

He hoped that this would happen sooner rather than later. 

700,000 displaced in Lebanon

About the UNHCR's plan for Lebanon, he said that aid workers were seeking access to the refugees, but this would be possible only if violence ceased.

According to him there are 500,000 internally displaced persons in Lebanon and another 200,000 had fled the country.

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