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Sri Lanka launches major offensive in Trincomalee

Ground troops supported by artillery, navy and air force launched the offensive to capture Mutur East and Sampur, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Aug 29, 2006 12:53 IST

Sri Lankan ground troops supported by the artillery, navy and air force launched an offensive early on Monday to capture Mutur East and Sampur in Trincomalee district in Eastern Sri Lanka.

The LTTE's military spokesman, Rasaiah Ilanthirayan told Hindustan Times over phone from Kilinochchi, that Sri Lankan ground troops started a three-pronged attack from Pacchanoor, Thoppur and Mahindapura at 3 am.

Later, the three-pronged attack got reduced to two, with movement from Mahindapura being abandoned, Ilanthirayan said.

"From 3 am till about 6 pm, there were clashes between the intruding troops and LTTE fighters along the border," Ilanthirayan said.

The army and Air Force opened a relentless bombardment of Tamil Tiger positions in Sampur and Mutur East across the Koddiyar Bay on Sunday night.

While the armywas firing artillery and Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs) from the Trincomalee naval base and Mutur South, the LTTE was shelling from its positions in Sampur.

The Sri Lankan Air Force was also picking up targets in Sampur and Mutur East.

The shelling was kept up right through Monday, sources in Trincomalee said.

As per Army sources, four soldiers were killed and 31 injured in the shelling so far.

Casualties on the LTTE side were not available.

A barrage from MBRLs and aerial bombardment by Kfir fighter-bombers, killed 20 civilians in Paatalipuram, the LTTE's spokesman Ilanthirayan said.

The Sri Lankan Navy shelled the LTTE's naval base at Ilakkanthai.

Battle to safeguard Trincomalee harbour

The Sri Lankan government's idea seems to be to either silence the LTTE's guns in Sampur and Mutur East, or if possible, drive the LTTE out of these areas in order to ensure the safety of the Trincomalee harbour and naval base.

The Trincomalee harbour and naval base are situated across the Koddiyar Bay.

Recently, the LTTE had sent a message to President Mahinda Rajapaksa saying that it was ready for a cessation of hostilities.

Clearly, it was unable to meet the new challenge from the army's guns and MBRLs and the Air Force's supersonic Kfir fighter-bombers. These had been put to heavy use.

But President Rajapaksa made it clear that he could consider a ceasefire only if the Tiger chieftain Velupillai Prabhakaran himself gave a personal, credible and verifiable guarantee of a ceasefire.

Additionally (and perhaps more importantly) Prabhakaran should guarantee that Sampur would not be used for staging military attacks, the President said.

According to informed sources, the government wants to maintain its current dominance in ground firepower and monopoly of air power, to make the LTTE's positions in Sampur and Mutur East untenable.

The LTTE did not respond to the government's conditions.

Obviously, it felt that it could not vacate Sampur and Mutur East and give up its claim to the Trincomalee harbour.

First Published: Aug 28, 2006 21:22 IST