Sri Lankan troops open Northern front

Earlier, air force jets bombed and strafed LTTE installations in Batticaloa district, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Aug 13, 2006 04:07 IST

Sri Lankan troops on Friday opened a new front in North Sri Lanka, when they moved into LTTE-held territory at Muhamalai, in an apparent bid to take Elephant Pass and perhaps even Kilinochchi, the Tiger headquarters further to the south.

Earlier in the afternoon, Sri Lankan Air Force jets bombed and strafed LTTE installations in the eastern district of Batticaloa.

The LTTE's military spokesman Rasaiah Ilanthirayan alias Marshal, told Hindustan Times that government troops, supported by artillery, moved across Muhamalai in North Sri Lanka, at 5.40 pm.

The LTTE, in turn, moved its combat units to the front lines to meet the challenge.

Heavy fighting was reported from that area. The shelling could be heard even in Kilinochchi, Marshal said.

Indicating that the LTTE was not frightened, he said: " The noise of the shelling is like a lullaby for us!"

"Our forces are determined to fight with responsibility to protect our people and safeguard our homeland," Marshal added.

He accused the Sri Lankan forces of trying to create a humanitarian crisis in the North, as they did in Mutur.

Thenmarachchi (where Muhamalai is) and Wanni are critical areas for the LTTE because the former leads to the Wanni, which is where the LTTE has its main base.

The Wanni is also where the Tiger chieftain V Prabhakaran lives, and has his main communication base.

Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts bombed

Earlier in the afternoon, the Sri Lankan Air Force bombed and strafed Tharavai, where the LTTE's eastern headquarters are located.

One report said that the aerial bombing had destroyed a rebel training centre.

Kfir supersonic aircraft dropped as many as 16 bombs on Tharavai, Miankulam, and Iralakulam, the Tamilnet website said.

LTTE's spokesman Thaya Master said that some civilians were injured in these aerial raids, but no damage was caused to the group's installations.

Tamilnet said that an UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) was spotted over Kilinochchi, the LTTE's headquarters.

Fighting continues in Mavil Aaru

Meanwhile, heavy fighting continued in the Mavil Aaru dam site for the fifth day after the dam was opened.

Troops trying to clear the area of the LTTE killed 20 rebels and wounded 15. Nine army personnel lost their lives, the Army said.

The Air Force in the meanwhile bombed Sampur and Eachchilampattu, both in LTTE-controlled areas in Trincomalee district.

Strategic aims

The main strategic aim of the Sri Lankan forces seems to be to put pressure on the LTTE both in the East and the North, so that the rebels vacate strategic areas in Trincomalee district like Sampur, Mutur-East, Eachchilampattu and the Verugal river.

To defend the East, the LTTE will have to bring reinforcements from both the Wanni and Batticaloa.

This is why the Air Force is targeting the LTTE's military installations in Batticaloa, Sampur and Eachchilampattu.

Pressure is being maintained in the Mavil Aaru sector.

And there is a new move to mount pressure in North Wanni, at Muhamalai.

With so many fronts to handle, the LTTE may have to choose which one to defend with all its might.

It may be forced to choose the Northern front, given the fact that Kilinochchi has become vulnerable.

In that case, the Eastern front becomes weak.

The implementation of the LTTE's long-standing plan to win back the East fully, after the blow dealt by Karuna's defection in March 2004, and to encircle Trincomalee harbour, will be delayed.

The vital link between the Tamil-speaking North and the Tamil-speaking East, will have been weakened, if not severed, if the government forces achieve their objective.

The Tamil case for keeping the North and East united, will suffer a grievous blow.

There is already a case in the Sri Lankan Supreme Court challenging the legality of the merger of the North and East in the late 1980s following the India-Sri Lanka Accord of July 1987.

First Published: Aug 11, 2006 22:38 IST