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Sri Lankan forces launch strikes in LTTE-held areas

The action comes hours after a suicide bomber attacked the Lankan Army HQ in Colombo, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 02:45 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran

The Sri Lankan Air Force, Navy and Army shelled the LTTE-controlled area of Sampur in East Sri Lanka on Tuesday, official sources told Hindustan Times.

The Director General of the Government Peace Secretariat, Dr Palitha Kohona, said that the Sri Lankan Security Forces had "retaliated" after the LTTE shelled the Trincomalee naval base.

It was a "deterrent" to further attacks by the LTTE, he said.

Sources in Trincomalee said that Israeli-made Kfir fighter-bombers bombed the Sampur area near Trincomalee in five sorties between 5.45 pm to 6.25 pm.

At 6.35 pm, the Army began shelling the area. A naval gunboat also joined in the shelling, the sources said.

Altogether 96 shells were lobbed.

Curfew had been imposed on Trincomalee town at 4 pm.

North-South road closed

Meanwhile, the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces closed the only road between Vavuniya and Jaffna, called Alpha 9.

Jaffna is thus effectively cut off from the Sri Lankan south.

Alpha 9 passes through LTTE controlled territory known as the Wanni. The LTTE headquarters, Kilinochchi, lies here.

Retaliation for attempt on Army chief's life?

Earlier in the day, an LTTE suicide bomber attacked the Sri Lankan Army Commander, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka, at the Army Headquarters in Colombo, injuring him critically.

The aerial, naval and ground shelling in East Sri Lanka later in the evening might have been a retaliation for the attempt on Gen Fonseka's life, political observers said.

Trincomalee, Colombo calm

Despite the assassination attempt and the subsequent bombardment, signally a return to war, Trincomalee town and Colombo, were calm.

"The three communities (Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim) have decided to live together," a Trincomalee resident said over the phone.

Trincomalee had seen a bomb blast and Sinhala-Tamil rioting for several days from April 12 onwards.

Govt appeals for calm

Meanwhile, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appealed to Sri Lankans to be calm. A government statement asked the people of Sri Lanka to "exercise maximum restraint, and not to fall prey to the LTTE ploy of provoking a backlash."

The statement said that the government had stepped up security and "taken all effective measures to maintain law and order in all parts of the country especially in Trincomalee where a public market place had come under an LTTE terror attack recently."

Troops poured into the streets of Colombo to give the people a sense of security.

First Published: Apr 25, 2006 20:15 IST