B. Muralidhar Reddy
COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan military said on Tuesday troops, amid intense fighting, further advanced into LTTE’s remaining stronghold, Puthukkudiyiruppu. It claimed that the Tigers had suffered heavy damages.
It said the troops foiled an infiltration bid by the LTTE terrorists in Mullathivu. “Heavy fighting has erupted as troops of 1 Sinha Regiment [1SR], and 9 Field Engineers intercepted a group of terrorists trying to infiltrate army forward boundary east of the Nanthikadal lagoon this morning,” said the Defence Ministry.
Meanwhile, the government said if the LTTE was ready to heed the call of the European Union (EU) to lay down arms, the need for “immediate ceasefire” to protect the interests of stranded civilians does not arise.
Welcoming the EU call on Monday to the LTTE to lay down arms and renounce terrorism, the government claimed that it suspended hostilities for a 48-hour period and designated no-fire zones to allow safe passage of the civilian population fleeing the conflict areas on January 29.
The LTTE has not responded so far to the EU call. Hours before the EU Foreign Ministers statement, the Tigers in a letter to the Co-Chairs of Sri Lanka (U.S., Norway, Japan and EU) argued why it was not “helpful” to ask the LTTE to give up arms and said it was ready for an internationally supervised ceasefire.
“The LTTE’s only response was to continue with its armed hostilities, endangering the lives of civilians. It should be emphasised that the objective of the present military engagement is to defeat terrorism and create an environment conducive for democratic pluralism”, it said.
“Amidst extremely hazardous circumstances, the government is continuing to keep the civilians supplied with food, medicine, and other essential services, which underscores the duty and concern towards its own citizens, thus also fulfilling its obligations under International Humanitarian Law and the principles of the laws of war”, the Ministry said.
Meanwhile in a report posted on its website the LTTE alleged that artillery fired by the Army killed at least 10 civilians and injured some. “More than thirty civilians were killed on Monday and many more were injured. With the dense setup of the IDP tents placed touching each other in the “safe zone” any shell that falls inside this area will kill civilians and many of the victims will invariably be children,” it charged.Related stories: