Journalists taken to Rana Gosa areas
[TamilNet, Thursday, 17 June 1999, 20:36 GMT]
(News Feature) The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) took more than 30 local journalists on a guided tour of the areas captured during the latest phase of Operation Rana Gosa on the northern parts of Mannar mainland on Tuesday, June 15.
The army says that it advanced about 15 kilometres on the Mannar-Pooneryn road from its base at Thallaady in phase 4 of operation Rana Gosa. SLA officials said that about 358 square kilometres were brought under control. The army claimed that there are about 8000 civilians the newly captured areas.
|SLA troops search civilians in newly captured areas.Photo:TamilNet|
Military analysts in Colombo say that the army wants to eventually bring the road from Mannar to Jaffna through Pooneryn under its control.
The local journalists were taken to Paappamoddai a coastal village about 11 km. north east of Mannar along the Pooneryn Road.
Major General Balagalla, Sri Lankan Security Forces Commander, Vanni, briefed the journalists at the SLA's 21-1 Brigade Head Quarters in Vavuniya about the current security situation in the Vanni, before the journalists were taken to Paappamoddai.
He said that the "phase by phase operation" is aimed at reducing the source of recruitment to the LTTE which will gradually but eventually weaken them.
The SLA believes that the Liberation Tigers will face a serious manpower shortage if the populated areas in the Vanni from which they can draw recruits are gradually brought under army control in phased out operations such as Rana Gosa.
While answering a question from a journalist, Major General Lionel Balagalla said that the Liberation Tigers are present in the newly captured areas.
However, the army, he claimed, has taken all necessary measures to identify, screen and arrest the infiltrators. He added that the security forces are there to help the civilians and not to harm them.
Major General Upali Gamage who is in charge of the area taken during the latest phase of Operation Rana Gosa said that the army had advanced towards Paappamoddai from Thiruketheeswaram which about 4 km. north of the SLA's 21-2 Brigade Head Quarters at Thallaady.
Thiruketheeswaram is one of the largest Siva temples and pilgrim centres of the island. Its precincts have been occupied by the SLA since 1997 despite protests by Hindu organisations.
The SLA and police are currently screening the civilians in the villages captured during Rana Gosa 4. A large number of civilians were waiting to get the Police pass issued jointly by the SLA and the Police.
|Villagers are interviewed by Sri Lanka Police and Army personnel.Photo:TamilNet|
"We did not know that there was an operation by the army in our area until troops came into our village because there were no clashes between the army and the LTTE" said a community leader at Paappamoddai, glancing cautiously at Policeman who stood nearby.
Journalists spoke to other people in the village as well. "We were free to go anywhere when the Tigers were here. Now the army has ordered us not to move about in the night but to remain at home. We are frightened to send our grown up children out. We are afraid that the army may arrest them" the villagers said.
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