B. Muralidhar Reddy
Water war spreads to Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Mannar districts
TamilNet alleges killing of civilians by Sri Lankan troopersSri Lanka rejects Norway's call for an end to the current hostilities
COLOMBO: At least 34 persons, including 19 civilians, were killed on Wednesday and Thursday in the Muslim-dominated Muttur town in the north-east as the "water war" between the Sri Lanka Government and the Tamil Tigers spread to Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Mannar districts.
Reports suggest that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has "overrun" the Government-controlled Muttur town and an estimated 9,000 civilians have taken shelter in the mosques and educational institutions there. Civilian causalities in the town occurred as the places where people are sheltered came under crossfire between the Sri Lanka military and the LTTE.
With the strategic town virtually cut off from the rest of the world, both sides blamed each other for the carnage.
Military spokesman Upali Rajapakse said the civilians killings were the result of indiscriminate shelling by the LTTE cadres who had managed to sneak into the town.
He said the bloodiest attack was against Arabic College where 10 persons were killed and at least 50 wounded. Two other Muslim schools at Thoppur, a suburb of Muttur, were also hit by shells leaving five dead and 10 wounded at Al Noori College and two killed at Al Hameema College.
"The Tigers are trying to bring down artillery on our positions and when they miss, this is what happens," Mr. Rajapakse said.
The spokesman of the Government said in the morning that LTTE infiltrators caused destruction to public property. The city hospital, telecom office and other public buildings were hit in the crossfire.
"The security forces are in pursuit of these disruptive elements. It is expected that the search operation for the LTTE infiltrators will be completed shortly. This action of the LTTE targeting the civilian population has caused displacement and hardship to the residents of Muttur. The Government Agent is taking all necessary measures to provide relief supplies and essential services to the affected population," the spokesman said.
The TamilNet alleged that Sri Lankan troopers in Seruvila opened fire on an ambulance of the Muttur district hospital, transferring patients to Trincomalee general hospital killing two civilians.
"In this incident an eight-year-old boy Aravinthan died in the church," the website claimed.
LTTE military spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan claimed in a statement to the TamilNet that the town had "largely" come under LTTE control and the Sri Lanka forces' attempt to land in Muttur jetty was thwarted and 40 SLA troopers were killed.
He blamed the SLA for "indiscriminate artillery bombing" on civilian targets, the Islamic Arawa College, a church and the attack on the ambulance. He said they were attending to the needs of the "internally displaced people."