Batticaloa troops sent to Vanni
[TamilNet, Thursday, 25 June 1998, 23:59 GMT]
The Sri Lankan Army (SLA) is moving front-line soldiers from Batticaloa to the areas of Operation 'Jeyasikurui' and replacing them with re-instated deserters and fresh recruits, ex-militant sources in Europe told TamilNet today.
A troop turnaround had occurred recently in the SLA's Batticaloa Brigade, said the sources, when around 1250 experienced soldiers were transferred from Batticaloa to the Vanni to bolster Operation Jayasikurui.
The troops had been replaced by 1000 new men, made up of both soldiers who had been arrested recently during the military's crackdown on deserters, and raw recruits, said the sources.
Both the returning deserters and the fresh recruits had been in training at the SLA's camp at Minneriya in the Polannaruwa District, they said. The arrested deserters had been given two weeks training and the recruits a six week course before being sent to Batticaloa, they added.
The SLA has also been withdrawing troops from the Jaffna peninsula and redeploying them in the Vanni. An estimated 30,000 Sri Lankan troops are involved in an operation aimed at capturing the A9 highway running from Vavuniya to the Jaffna peninsula.
The sources also said that the SLA spokesman, Brig. Sarath Munasinghe, had stated at a press briefing held in Colombo today, that 69 soldiers had been killed between 17 and 23 June, along with an estimated 197 Liberation Tigers.
According to the Brigadier, 3 SLA officers were among its KIA and the Tigers' casualty figure included the 33 estimated killed in Vakarai, in the eastern province on Tuesday said the sources.
The Brigadier had said that Mankulam had not been captured, but had claimed SLA advances east, west and south of Mankulam, said the sources.
The LTTE has not commented on military activity in the Vanni.
The Sri Lankan government has imposed strict censorship on the reporting of military activity. This, combined with the ban on correspondents entering the war zone has made it impossible to independently verify events taking place there.
22.06.98 Mankulam battle rages
22.06.98 Vakarai captured - SLA
18.06.98 Conflicting claims in Vanni fighting