B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: The military on Wednesday claimed to have captured the strategic and largest Sea Tiger coastal town in Mannar district. There was no reaction from the LTTE to the military’s claim.

A Defence Ministry statement said Army Task Force 1 and the Commando Brigade “liberated the strategically important Vidattaltivu town on Wednesday morning.” The town, 20 km north of Mannar, was described by the military as the main Sea Tiger “base-cum-logistic hub.”

The ministry said the operation was commenced on Tuesday. “Unable to withstand the military onslaught, [the] terrorists fled further northwards and later suffered heavy damages when the elite commandos flanking the north-eastern boundaries of Vidattaltivu laid an ambush,” it said.

The commandos were confronted by a group of 60 cadre and the latter began to withdraw towards Iluppakkadavai as they came under heavy artillery and rocket fire. Also, MI-24 helicopter gun-ships launched “close air-support missions” to support the troops. The military claimed over 30 LTTE cadre were killed. “Troops approaching from the east of Vidattaltivu cut off the Mannar-Poonaryn Road. Later, the troops marched into the town and declared the area liberated after 21 years,” the statement said.

The military said the Army has captured Vidattaltivu area after 21 years.

The ministry said the loss of Vidattaltivu is a “fatal blow” to the LTTE as it has lost the most important Sea Tiger base. Now, the LTTE “has no option” but to shift its Sea Tiger assets to a makeshift camp further northwards.

New visa guidelines

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday issued new guidelines to be followed for visa requests by U.N. and other international organisations that have Status Agreements with the government. The new guidelines follow complaints of delay and red-tape in issuance of visas.

As per the Foreign Ministry, taking into account the “overall requirements” of the government, the new guidelines are intended to ensure the continuity of the functions carried out by international organisations.