Thursday, May 11, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Tigers breach army defences

COLOMBO, May 10 (PTI, UNI) — Tamil guerrillas today launched heavy attacks on government troops at places closer to the embattled Jaffna town to dislodge army defences.

The LTTE launched pre-dawn simultaneous major attacks on Ariyalai and Thanankilappu located on the banks of a lagoon close to Jaffna, a government press note said, adding that troops held on to Thanankilappu repulsing all attacks by the guerrillas. The rebels, however, managed to breach army defences in ‘a few places’.

Additional troops arrived amid reports that the separatist guerrillas captured part of Navatkuli bridge cutting the main Jaffna-Kandy A9 P Highway.

However, the Sri Lankan Government tonight denied reports that the LTTE had captured the Navatkuli bridge.

It said 149 troops were wounded while repulsing sustained LTTE attacks. Ariyalai is located over 5 km north of Jaffna town while Thanankilappu is situated about 7 km north of Ariyalai.

The press note said the army had rushed more reinforcements to the two areas to repulse the LTTE attacks.

“Terrorists continued to fire heavy volumes of artillery and mortars. The troops fought back effectively repulsing a number of human waves of the attackers although there were a large number of casualties among the attackers. However, the LTTE human waves continued the assault without any respect for the lives of the junior LTTE cadre”, it said.

While the troops managed to repulse the LTTE attacks at Thanankilappu, LTTE guerrillas managed to breach a ‘few gaps’ in the army defences at Ariyalai. “At present intense fighting continues in Ariyalai sector”, it said.

The ground troops were effectively supported by artillery and air attacks by the Sri Lankan air force fighter bombers.

According to the ground troops, terrorists have suffered “very heavy casualties” while the troops too have suffered casualties due to the intense fighting.

Today’s attacks, coming a day after the government rejected the LTTE’s conditional cease-fire offer to pull out 27,000 troops from Jaffna, saw a marked difference in the LTTE tactics as it attacked army defences located near Jaffna town. Fighting was concentrated at Kilali, which is about 45 km north of Jaffna town, till yesterday but after failing to dislodge army defences there, the LTTE changed its strategy and attacked Ariyalai and Thanankilappu.

Meanwhile, in an effort to bolster the army’s recruitment drive following major reverses in Jaffna, Lankan Deputy Defence Minister Gen Anuruddha Ratwatte has asked each of the 223 members of Parliament to encourage at least 100 youths each from their constituencies to join the armed forces.

In another development, the government increased taxes on cigarettes and alcohol to mop up an estimated Rs 1500 million to be spent on defence requirements.

Meanwhile, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) today moved a resolution in Parliament for a discussion on the offer made by India expressing willingness to play a role of a “mediator or honest broker” if the government and the LTTE wanted to do so.

UNITED NATIONS: Voicing concern over the possible humanitarian consequences of the recent escalation of fighting between government troops and the LTTE in Sri Lanka, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged all parties to avoid placing the lives of civilians at risk.

“The Secretary-General strongly believes that a political solution is necessary to the conflict in Sri Lanka”, a spokesman for Mr Annan said on Tuesday.

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