Military operation in Batticaloa
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 19 August 1998, 10:51 GMT]
A joint operation by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), Special Task Force (STF), police and Tamil para-military groups to advance into areas held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) west of Batticaloa town began in the early hours on Wednesday, said informed sources in Europe when contacted by TamilNet. No fighting has been reported as yet, they added.
The sources said that the Sri Lanka Government (SLG) forces are approaching LTTE controlled areas from three directions: over the Vavunatheevu (3km west of Batticaloa) and Paddiruuppu (25km south of Batticaloa) bridges and using the ferry across Munmunai lagoon (10 km south of Batticaloa).
The usual softening up of resistance in the LTTE areas by the use of heavy artillery was notably absent this time, they said.
The operation is reported to have prevented civilian traffic moving to and from the west of Batticaloa.
The most severely affected are school children sitting the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level examination from coming across in to SLG controlled areas to sit their papers. The SLG's Education Department does not hold examinations in areas not held by the SLA.
Public servants working in areas west of Batticaloa town, but resident elsewhere, are also not being allowed to go to their work places, said sources.
The assault through Vavunatheevu began around 4:00 a.m. with around 15 bus loads of SLA troops and Tamil para-military groups supported by SLA armour preparing to go across the bridge.
Artillery was moved to the STF camp at Munmunai, before the STF and Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), one of the Tamil militias working with the SLA, began crossing the lagoon.
The assault force through Paddiruppu comprised the STF and Sri Lankan police. The latter is deployed in a combat role in the eastern province.
In the past, when such operations are conducted, another SLA column advances through Amparai towards the LTTE held areas also, but there is as yet no confirmation of this today, said sources.
On previous occasions that the SLG forces have gone across into LTTE held areas and either returned the same day or the next, said the sources, adding that it was not clear if this was the case this time.