3RD LEAD

SLA sustains heavy losses in fresh offensive

[TamilNet, Saturday, 09 September 2006, 12:48 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s military launched a ground offensive Saturday against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) territory in the northern Jaffna peninsula, after bombarding the area for two days. At least 25 Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers were killed and around 125 wounded, informed military sources said. Wounded soldiers in more than five busses were rushed to Palaly and airlifted elsewhere for treatment. The artillery attacks ceased around noon as SLA forces were evacuating the wounded troopers.

The Sri Lanka Army sources in Colombo claimed to have advanced 1 km into LTTE-held territory in the Muhamalai area.

According to LTTE Military Spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan Saturday evening, heavy fighting was taking place at the Forward Defence Lines (FDLs). He denied the SLA advance.

Ilanthirayan said the SLA forces launched a new offensive around 4:30 a.m. Saturday with ground troop movement towards LTTE FDLs.

Meanwhile, SLA spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe was quoted by Reuters as saying it was a "defensive" operation.

"We have neutralized LTTE mortar locations which they were using against our forward defense lines," he said.

However, the AFP quoted military sources as saying hundreds of SLA troops launched the offensive from three locations along the Jaffna front lines.

SLA troops had moved almost a kilometer (half-mile) into territory previously held by the Tigers, the sources also told AFP.

In a statement the military said Saturday “troops are now in process of consolidating their positions after they, with assistance of the Air Force, neutralized the LTTE artillery and mortar bases where the terrorists directed fire towards Security Forces.”

11 soldiers were killed in action while 53 were injured, the statement said. However, military sources speaking on condition of anonymity said at least 25 SLA troops were killed and 125 soldiers wounded during the offensive.

“Casualties are mainly due to long-range weapons fired by the Tigers,” a military source told AFP.

There were no Tiger casualties in the clashes, LTTE Military Spokesman Irasiah Ilanthairayan, told TamilNet Saturday evening.

The Voice of Tigers (VoT) radio station said 4 LTTE cadres had been killed in SLA shelling Friday.

The SLA offensive was preceded by two days of intense shelling by artillery and multi-barrel rocket launchers (MBRLs) forced civilians on both sides of the FDLs to flee.

SLA troops prevented the displaced people in Army controlled area from using the A9 highway and they had to trek through alternate routes and shrub land to arrive in the Vadamaradchi region further north.

Telephone lines to Kilinochchi were cut on Thursday.

 

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