B. Muralidhar Reddy
Sri Lankan Army consolidating positions in Sampur region
Army claims killing 200 LTTE cadresTigers accuse army of unprovoked attacks
SAMPUR: Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continued to be engaged on Monday in intense battles in the Jaffna peninsula. Thirty-three military personnel have died so far and the army claimed to have killed over 200 LTTE cadres. The claims could not be verified.
The army said it launched the operation along the Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) in response to indiscriminate firing from the LTTE-held areas. The Tigers have denied the charge and accused the Government of military adventurism.
It would be weeks, if not months, before the army could declare the just "liberated" Sampur a safe zone. Proceeding on the assumption that the retreating Tigers have left the place heavily mined, army engineers are now in the process of checking every inch of the 25-km-long stretch up to Foul Point.
Sarath Wijesinghe, the Brigade Commander in-charge of the Sampur operations, told a group of visiting journalists "the morale of the army personnel is high and they have seized several LTTE locations".
He said, with the aerial support of the air force, several LTTE camps have been destroyed during the operation. The commander claimed that the advancing military columns had killed more than 200 Tiger cadres. Offices, court houses and various other buildings which were administered by the outfit are now under the army's control.
While taking the mediapersons inside the erstwhile LTTE territory, the military took precautions like placing at the vanguard an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) to take the impact of any explosion of landmines. It is difficult to believe that the much talked about Sampur post of the Tigers was literally face to face with the last post of the army. According to the soldiers and officers there, both sides co-existed with little discomfort until the failed assassination attempt on the army chief, Samantha Fonseka in April.
The Tigers have claimed the army attacked even after giving an undertaking to Norway to de-militarise the zone.