B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Even as the Sri Lankan military continued to hunt down LTTE cadre in their remaining hideouts in Mullathivu district, a group of miscreants on Friday attacked the main office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) here.

The attack came within hours of erstwhile leader of Janatha Vimukthi Perumana Wimal Weerawansa being quoted by local media as saying ICRC station chief in Colombo, Paul Castella, should be deported for making exaggerated statements on the plight of the civilians in the war zone.

The military claimed that the civilians from LTTE-held areas continued to arrive in government areas. However, the number of those who have turned up at government welfare centres in the last one week is negligible compared to the over 1.2 lakh civilians — as per government estimates — who remain trapped in the battle zone. The LTTE and the government have not heeded requests from different parts of the globe for a halt in hostilities to enable safe passage of these civilians.

At a rally in Kandy, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa insisted that it was high time Tiger cadre surrendered. “If they hope to escape out, they would have known better. The last Sea Tiger base, Chalai, had already fallen. It’s much wiser for them to comply with the request of the Co-Chairs.”

The attack in the premises of the ICRC, the only agency with a presence in Wanni, has angered the diplomatic community here. “How could a mob enter such a high security zone without being intercepted by the police? One wonders what message the government wants to send across the world by its failure to prevent such incidents,” a senior diplomat asked speaking to The Hindu.

The Air Force claimed it had launched air strikes on a “high-profile LTTE hideout” near the Puthukkudiyiripu junction in Mullathivu.

“The air strikes were successful. LTTE communication has gone dead since the initial aerial attack and tension is prevailing within the inner circles of the organisation,” the Defence Ministry claimed.

Troops operating east of Visuamadu took total control of a main base complex of the LTTE’s ‘Radha Regiment,’ tasked with providing security to LTTE chief Velupillai Prabakaran.