B. Muralidhar Reddy

Air Force jets, helicopters target "identified Tiger gathering" in Trincomalee

  • More than 90 anti-personnel mines removed: Army
  • Allegedly laid by the LTTE to prevent civilians from leaving

    COLOMBO: The Sri Lanka military claimed on Monday that a "large number" of cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were killed when the Air Force bombed a gathering at Kumburupiddi in the Morawewa North area of Trincomalee district.A statement by the military said Kfir fighter jets and Mi-24 helicopters targeted an identified LTTE gathering in Trincomalee in the afternoon. "Air Force sources confirmed that a large number of terrorists were killed and wounded in the attack," it said.

    Two soldiers killed

    Separately, two soldiers died and four others were injured when a "listening post" of the Army, located ahead of the Vavunathivu camp in Batticaloa district, came under fire by the LTTE late on Sunday. The military said the bodies of the soldiers were taken away by the LTTE cadres.

    Following the attack, the LTTE directed artillery and mortar fire at areas surrounding the Vavunathivu camp. The Army claimed to have successfully repulsed the attack.

    The military said troops consolidating their positions in the just-captured Verugal and surrounding areas had removed nearly 90 anti-personnel mines, reportedly laid by the LTTE to prevent civilians from moving to safe areas. The terrain along the coastal belt between Kadjuwatta and Verugal and areas west of Verugal from Echchlampatthu to Mahindapura had been heavily booby-trapped by the Tigers.

    Ruins damaged

    It said the soldiers visited the historical Lankapatuna, also known as Mottuvaram, north of Verugal. In the 4th century A.D., Prince Dantha and Princess Hemamala disembarked there with the sacred tooth of the Buddha.

    "The Field Commanders reported that the LTTE had damaged the ruins at Lankapatuna Samuragiri Viharaya. It is widely believed that the LTTE would have damaged the ruins in 2002 after the ceasefire agreement was signed. It has built a Hindu kovil in 2003 at the site. Illankanturai, a LTTE Sea Tiger base, had also been established on the historical Lankapatuna peninsula. If these areas were not liberated centuries later, the LTTE could have claimed them as part of their heritage to justify their war for a separate Tamil homeland", the statement said.

    The operation to oust the Tigers is expected to continue for several weeks. The Government is determined to chase them out from the east, and the Tigers have said they would continue to offer resistance.

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