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 Post subject: "Operation Water Shed" continues - many dead
 Post Posted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 8:17 pm 
"Operation Water Shed" continues
At least 41 dead in Lanka-LTTE clash

@ PK Balachandran / HT
Colombo, July 31, 2006

Sri Lankan troops, supported by supersonic aircraft and artillery, moved towards the Mavil Aaru dam in Trincomalee district on Monday, but were met with "stiff resistance" from the LTTE, the Sri Lankan Army said.


The army website said that the LTTE was putting up stiff resistance to advancing Sri Lankan troops with incessant mortar and small arms fire.

The area around Mavil Aaru had been heavily mined, said the government defense spokeman, Keheliya Rambukwela.

"The LTTE lost 35 cadres while the army lost six men. Six troops were wounded," an army spokesman said.

But according to the pro-LTTE website Tamilnet, the army lost 12 troops including two officers, while the LTTE lost three men and two were wounded.

The army was "defeated" at Valkottu even as the Sri Lankan Air Force's Kfir and MIG fighter bombers and Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers shelled the area incessantly, the rebel website claimed.

"The army could not move far, even a kilometre from the Thirumangalam camp," said Ilanthirayan, the military spokesman of the LTTE.

The army had moved from the camp towards Ankodai in the LTTE controlled area, en route to Mavil Aaru.

The nearest army camp was 5 kms from the dam site.

The LTTE also said that the army's bid to take Eachchilampattu, further east, had also been "defeated".

A column of the army had moved from the Kallaru camp, near Mavil Aaru, to Eachchilampattu, in a bid to divert the LTTE's attention.

The area around the Mavil Aaru dam is heavily mined by the LTTE.

Government defense spokesman Keheliya Rambukwela said that this was impeding the advance of the troops.

The issue

The Sri Lankan government and the LTTE have been fighting for the past ten days over the Mavil Aaru dam in an LTTE-controlled area of Trincomalee district.

On July 20, the LTTE had closed the sluice gates of the dam which was supplying water to 15, 000 families and irrigating 30,000 acres of paddy land in a government-controlled area.

The LTTE had said that it would not open the gates until the government took steps to supply water to Muttur East and Eachchilampattu, areas controlled by it and met three other demands, unrelated to water.

Six days of talks through the Nordic truce monitors having failed, the government launched air strikes to clear the area of the LTTE so that government engineers could enter and reopen the gates, Rambukwela said.

He described the air raids on many parts of the North East held by the LTTE as a "humanitarian operation" and not "military action".

He said that the Air Force was attacking areas in Batticaloa and Mullaitivu districts to prevent the LTTE from sending military assistance to its cadres in Mavil Aaru.

Sri Lanka ceasefire collapses

@ The Age, Australia / Reuters / Simon Gardner, Colombo
August 1, 2006

NINE Sri Lankan soldiers have been killed and at least another 15 injured in a battle in the island's restive east, during the first military advance on Tamil Tiger territory since a 2002 truce.

Dozens of Tigers were believed to have been killed during the fight, although the rebels have not confirmed this.

"From the Government forces, nine have been killed," a military spokesman said. "There has been a ground battle."

A senior Tiger leader in the east said Sri Lanka's four-year ceasefire was now void and that the island's two-decade civil war was back on.

S. Elilan, head of the Tigers' political wing in the restive eastern district of Trincomalee, said troops had resumed a bid to advance towards land they control in the east and had fired artillery and mortars at their territory in the north.

"The ceasefire agreement has become null and void at the moment," Mr Elilan said from Trincomalee, adding Government troops were advancing towards the Tigers' forward defence line in the east in a water-supply dispute.

Mr Elilan is not the Tigers' main spokesman, but is one of their top officials and their political head in Trincomalee. He has repeatedly warned of a return to war.

The rebels, angry at President Mahinda Rajapakse's outright rejection of their demand for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in the north and east, have pulled out of peace talks indefinitely and have been cranking up the rhetoric for months. The Tigers say the Sri Lankan Air Force killed 15 rebels in five days of aerial bombing in the east and injured several others. The military put the death toll much higher.

The army sustained no new casualties, despite becoming bogged in a minefield on Sunday while trying to reach a sluice they accuse the Tigers of blocking to choke water supplies to Sinhalese farmers in Government territory.

Troops, still trying to clear the mines in their first open advance on rebel-held areas since the 2002 ceasefire, face intermittent firefights. They said they had humanitarian goals but that the Tigers had gone too far.

"Under international law, denial of water is a crime and people have gone to the gallows for less," said the head of the Government peace secretariat, Palitha Kohona. "The Government says categorically that it is totally committed to the ceasefire. But the most important thing is to provide water for 50,000 people."

The head of the island's Nordic truce-monitoring mission said on Saturday that the truce was dead in all but name after fresh violence killed more than 800 people so far this year. But he expected low-intensity fighting rather than a full-blown return to a conflict that has killed more than 65,000 people.

Jane's Defence Weekly analyst Iqbal Athas said the clashes could soon spread elsewhere across the island.

Many diplomats fear Black Tiger suicide bombers could bring the war to Colombo, further hammering investor confidence.


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