Sri Lanka not at war, says Rajapaksa

He says the ongoing clashes are only a series of retaliatory attacks to check the LTTE, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2006 14:15 IST

The fighting going on in North-East Sri Lanka was not "war", but only a series of "retaliatory" attacks to check the LTTE, the country's President Mahinda Rajapaksa said here on Wednesday.

His comments cameeven as reports poured in about heavy fighting going on in Jaffna, and the UN said that 135,000 civilians had been displaced by the fighting since April.

"We are only retaliating to attacks launched by the LTTE and are always ready for a negotiated settlement," the state-owned Daily News reported Rajapaksa as telling heads of Sri Lankan media organisations.

"We are not for war. I'm ready for talks at any time. We will go for negotiations not because we are afraid, but because we need peace," he said.

The President blamed certain media organisations for doing "false propaganda" that there was a "war" going on in Sri Lanka.

Asked about the LTTE's bid to take Jaffna, he said: "I will not pull out forces from the North and East and betray the nation."

"Our forces will never allow Jaffna to be captured," the Tamil daily Sudar Oli quoted him as saying.

No censorship but media has to be responsible

The President categorically denied that he was planning to impose censorship even as he appealed to the media not to glorify the terrorists and terrorist acts and write stories that might jeopardize national security.

"I have so far worked freely with the media. You can criticise the government. But national security is of utmost importance.

Therefore it is the responsibility of media personnel to have a clear understanding of what is to be published and what should not be published," Rajapaksa said.

"Supporting terrorism is a national crime," he asserted.

LTTE shells Palaly airfield, but amphibian assault on Kilaly fails

The LTTE has been shelling Muhamalai and the Palaly airfield in the North and attacking Jaffna from Kilaly and Pooneyrn across the Jaffna lagoon in the south, for the past few days, putting an estimated 40, 000 Sri Lankan troops in the Jaffna peninsula in a spot.

According to the pro-LTTE website Tamilnet, the LTTE shelled the Palaly airfield, the only airfield in Jaffna, Wednesday evening, preventing Sri Lankan Air Force choppers from taking off.

The Palaly airfield cum air base has not been taking fixed wing aircraft since shelling had damaged the runway, and flights to and fro were too dangerous to operate.

The Air Force uses Kfir supersonic fighter bombers which are based in South Sri Lanka.

The LTTE is keen on making Palaly unworkable not only because it is an airbase from which fixed wing aircraft and helicopters can operate, but because it is from there that the Sri Lankan Army is firing its long range artillery and Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRL).

Army says attack on Kilaly blunted

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Army said that the LTTE's amphibian assault to take Kilaly in the Thenmarachchi area had been blunted by ground and aerial action.

The LTTE had sent a flotilla of boats from Nagathevanthurai, in a bid to take Kilaly by storm, but government forces blunted the attack by artillery and air action.

About 200 LTTE cadres were killed in the battle, the army said.

In the Muhamalai sector, the Army was in the process of consolidating its positions after driving the LTTE out from the Forward Defense Lines (FDL), an army statement said.

135,000 civilians displaced since April: UN

According to the United Nations, 135, 000 civilians have fled from their homes and settlements in the Sri Lankan North-East since April.

A report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva said on Tuesday, that the figure included 50,000 who had fled in August, and the 6,672 who had fled to India.

"Thousands of families are still trapped in the islands off Jaffna and are unable to move freely," UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagponis said.

First Published: Aug 17, 2006 14:15 IST