3RD LEAD

SLA launches new offensive towards Vaharai

[TamilNet, Friday, 06 October 2006, 05:21 GMT]
Sri Lankan forces have launched a new offensive towards Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) controlled Vaharai region Friday morning. Sri Lanka Army (SLA) troops from Mankerni SLA camp advanced into LTTE controlled territory south of Vaharai with heavy artillery shelling, Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) bombardment and rocket fire from the Sri Lanka Navy gunboats, according to civilian sources. Thousands of civilians, most of them recently displaced from Trincomalee, were struggling to flee to safer areas. Civilian casualty figures are yet to be reported. "An inhumane war has been thrust upon 61,000 civilians," says Trincomalee District parliamentarian Thurairatnasingham.

Heavy fighting is reported from 4:30 a.m. Friday.

Mankerni where there is an entry point between areas controlled by LTTE and Sri Lanka government, is located 15 km south of Vaharai and 41 km northwest of Batticaloa.

Internally displaced civilians from 23 villages from Muthur East, SLA controlled areas south of Muthur, and 20 villages from Eachilampattu, Veruhal area, have sought refuge in Vaharai area, rendering the area densely populated with 61,000 civilians.

"The ICRC and UNHCR are only allowed to enter the region twice, on Tuesdays and Fridays and their officials face lot of restrictions to transport supplies and shelters to the civilians," Tamil National Alliance MP Thurairatnasingham said.

"Sri Lankan forces have continued to impose a severe blockade against the population."

The humanitarian situation was also worsened as the funds of Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, the only local NGO to assist the civilians on the spot, were frozen by the Government, he adds.

"It is an inhumane war, thrust upon Vaharai IDPs" said the MP who recently highlighted the plight of IDPs in the Sri Lankan assembly.

The TNA parliamentarians sit-in-protest in the Sri Lankan parliament was ignored by southern political parties, the MP says.


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