B. Muralidhar Reddy
Compelled to launch counter offensive, says Army
64 killed in the fightingBoth sides complain to the SLMM
COLOMBO: Going by the versions of Colombo and the LTTE, at least 64 persons are feared killed in heavy fighting between the two sides. Fresh clashes erupted in the Batticaloa district in the last 24 hours.
Each blamed the other for the major flare-up. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has received complaints from both sides.
The SLMM expressed concern about the hostilities and its possible adverse impact on the Geneva talks. Crippled as it is after the pull out by the European Union (E.U.) members, it is not in a position to monitor the ground situation due to the tensions.
The military said its troops were "compelled to launch counter offensives" due to the recent Tiger offensives launched in the Kadjuwatta-Mankerni area since Friday.
The Government has claimed that the Tigers have again attempted to pose a threat to the Trincomalee harbour and re-establish control in and around Muttur, which witnessed an intense battle in August.
According to the military, more than 50 Tiger cadres were killed and the LTTE was forced to withdraw from Panichchankerni. It said two soldiers died and 12 were "missing in action."
TamilNet reported that LTTE leader Thamilchelvan had sent an "urgent letter" to Norwegian Special Envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer informing the Tigers' stand following the offensive on Vaharai.
It quoted unnamed LTTE officials as saying the Tigers' decision to abide by the Co-Chairs' call was a "goodwill gesture" and a reminder of the moral obligations to create a conducive environment for talks. The letter was sent after the LTTE "defence council" discussed the military atmosphere prevailing in the northern front and in the east, said the TamilNet. It claimed that the LTTE had stopped tactical and pre-emptive defence operations with certain assurances to the facilitator.
The LTTE alleged that the military had defied the Co-Chairs's call by launching a three-pronged attack. "On 6 October, at 4.00 a.m. in the morning, Sri Lankan military attempted a three-pronged attack to capture the Vaharai area under LTTE administration. Taking part in the offensive with the Sri Lankan military were members of the Karuna-paramilitary group."
The LTTE said one group of the military moved from its Mankerny camp and attempted to go northwards. "They moved up to the Pannichchankerni LTTE point. The Navy landed troupes and the Karuna-group members slightly north of the Panichchankerni LTTE point. Heavy clashes ensued and both groups were repelled by the LTTE." According to the LTTE, the third group of the military attempted to move from Kaddumurippu, an inland region, towards Kathiraveli and it was repulsed. "Five LTTE fighters were killed in this attack. So far 13 bodies of the Sri Lankan military were captured and one was caught alive,"