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Peace over; LTTE vows to strike back

The Sri Lankan Air Force continued its raids against LTTE in Trincomalee, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 18:05 IST
PK Balachandran & Reuters
PK Balachandran & Reuters

The Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) continued its raids against LTTE military installations in Sampur in Trincomalee district on Wednesday, the military spokesman said.

The raids were in response to the LTTE's mortar attacks aimed at the Trincomalee naval base earlier in the morning, Brig Prasad Samarasinghe said.

Trincomalee residents told Hindustan Times over the phone that the air raids were resumed at about 5.30 am.

The shelling lasted till about 8.30 am, after which the navy started bombarding LTTE positions.

Sources in Trincomalee said that 12 persons had died and 27 were injured in the aerial bombardment since Tuesday evening.

Government spokesmen, however, said that it was not possible to give any casualty figures because the aerial operations were conducted in areas, which the Sri Lankan security forces had no ground access to.

According to Tamilnet website, about 15, 000 Tamils had left the Muttur area for safer places, following the aerial bombardment.

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) had asked the Scandinavian Truce Monitors to arrange for relief work among the refugees, the website said.

Defence analyst Iqbal Athas said that the aim of the air raids was to prevent the LTTE from using its long-range artillery to destroy the Trincomalee harbour and naval base, just across China Bay.

LTTE vows to hit back

Meanwhile, a senior LTTE official told Reuters on Wednesday that Tamil Tiger rebels will retaliate against the government if air and artillery strikes continue.

The head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) peace secretariat, S Puleedevan, said several civilians were dead and more fleeing the attacks, which started after a suicide bomb blast on Tuesday in Colombo that has been blamed on the rebels.

"They are firing with artillery and cannons," he said. "It is like a war situation in Trincomalee. If the attacks continue, the LTTE will be forced to take military defensive action." Meanwhile, the LTTE's Trincomalee district leader, S Elilan, has denied that the LTTE had shelled Trincomalee harbour prior to the air raids.

He said that the LTTE had not fired a single shot. He wondered if the Sri Lankan government had declared war.

He has written to the Scandinavian-staffed Sri Lanka Truce Monitoring Mission (SLMM) about this.

Elilan said that the aerial bombings and shelling from land and sea, were a breach of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).

While the government claimed that the air raids were aimed at the LTTE's military installations, Elilan said that only civilians and civilian property had been hit.

Trincomalee residents said that cattle and thatched houses had suffered the most.

General "much better"

Meanwhile, the condition of the injured Sri Lankan Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka was "stable" Brig Samarasinghe said.

"He is much better," the spokesman added.

The toll in Tuesday's suicide bomb attack on the Commander stood at eight dead and 29 injured, he said.

It is said that the female suicide bomber had come disguised as a pregnant woman taking advantage of the fact that Tuesday had been earmarked as the day for examining pregnant women at the Army Hospital located within the Army Headquarters Complex in Colombo.

She had a valid pass though her identity card was fake, media reports said.

The women security guards had not frisked her properly, perhaps assuming that she was genuinely pregnant.

Security experts said that it was wrong to have located the Army Hospital within the Army headquarters complex, because a hospital would get civilians as family members and visitors.

First Published: Apr 26, 2006 11:13 IST