B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Heavy casualties were reported in the new safety zone (NSZ) under the occupation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in northern Sri Lanka on Sunday, as the military made a major push towards the area in a bid to rescue an estimated 20,000 civilians held hostage by the Tigers.

The military and the Tigers blamed each other for the deaths.

Sri Lanka Government Health Ministry officials, stranded inside the NSZ along with civilians, said that at least 300 dead and 1100 injured persons were brought to the “makeshift hospitals” operating in the zone.

The Defence Ministry, while conceding that the advancing troops inflicted heavy casualties on the Tiger cadres inside the NSZ, categorically denied the charge that the military used heavy weapons in the latest fight. It said the second in command of the Sea Tigers wing was among those killed.

The Ministry said in a statement that the LTTE, which positioned their mortars in the NSZ, continuously fired mortars towards fleeing civilians for an hour.

Transcripts

The Ministry is expected to shortly release transcripts of the intercepted communication among the cadre who fired at the civilians.

“Mortar-locating radars of the Army confirmed that the mortar fire was launched by the LTTE from the previously declared ‘Safe Zone.’ The LTTE terrorists carried out those attacks intentionally to tarnish the image of the Security Forces in the eyes of public nationally and internationally,” it said.

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