B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: The Sri Lanka Government on Thursday asserted that the capture of Thoppigala which marked the “complete liberation of the Eastern province is a historic achievement” amid signs that the military would now slowly but steadily focus on the challenge posed by the LTTE in the north.

Minister and Cabinet Spokesperson Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told a news conference here, “We have liberated the East so that the people could be free from the clutches of the LTTE. We will now concentrate on developing the east and holding elections so that the eastern people also could elect their representatives for democratic institutions freely”.

The military spokesperson, Prasad Samarasinghe, who was present at the briefing, claimed that the fall of Thoppigala marked the end of LTTE camps in the whole of East and the province is now completely under the Government’s control. Brig. Samarasinghe maintained that there were “almost zero civilian causality” in the fight between the forces and the Tigers that lasted for nearly three months. At the same time, he was at pains to emphasise that “when dealing with the world’s second most treacherous terrorist group there could be hit-and-run attacks here and there for awhile.” The military spokesperson that if a blast takes place “it will be wrong to say that the claim’ that whole of East is controlled by the Government was a lie. He said that it is “highly possible” that those small pockets of terrorists may try minor explosions in few spots.

Clearing of mines on

He said the troops still have to remove large amount of booby traps and defuse land mines and anti-personnel mines left by the terrorists to clear the area.

The Brig. pointed out that the army was compelled to carry out the mission to save 178,000 lives of civilians living in those affected areas. Prior to the clearing of Thoppigala, the military liberated Sampur and Vaharai by January 2007. After liberating Vaharai, LTTE domination had been restricted to Thoppigala area where they had continued to attack civilians and the security forces. “Since February this year, the security forces commenced their march into the remaining LTTE domains in the East.