Soldiers tell of food shortage
[TamilNet, Saturday, 06 November 1999, 11:41 GMT]
A large number of Sri Lanka Army (SLA) troops have fallen back to the government garrison town of Vavuniya, after being routed from the Puliyankulam area, say sources there. Residents said more troops were regularly coming from the war front.
Residents in Vavuniya told TamilNet correspondents that the soldiers were battle fatigued and sought to obtain food and drinks from the shops in Vavuniya.
Other soldiers had fled to Eeraperiyakulam, seeking to obtain food and a change of clothes from the Sinhala villagers in that town, say sources.
While speaking to civilians in these towns, soldiers are reported to have stated that the Tigers have attacked strongly, firing artillery and mortars.
"We were unable to stand and fight due to the continuous nature of the shelling," one soldier told people in a shop.
Other soldiers are told of being shelled from all directions, and being unable to reply.
"As soon as we fire, they aim at the point from which we fired. This makes countering their attack difficult," said the soldier. "Many, like us have withdrawn."
The soldiers also report that there is a shortage of food in the area. They claim that even when Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) helicopters drop food, the amount delivered is insufficient for the large numbers of soldiers.
There have also been complaints lodged that some of these soldiers have robbed the shops in the areas to which they have fled, say TamilNet correspondents in the area.
A Tamil commercial association has complained of being threatened by these soldiers, according to sources.
Meanwhile ICRC spokesman told TamilNet that the Tigers have informed the organisation that they have cremated 402 bodies of the SLA soldiers.
In a press release issued yesterday the Liberation Tigers said "since the Sri Lankan military establishment and the State have, for political reasons, refused permission to the ICRC to accept the bodies of demised soldiers, the LTTE fighters have been cremating the dead soldiers with military honors."
"Over one thousand troops have been killed and double that number injured during the last four days of heavy fighting" the LTTE statement said. During the past 24 hours the Tigers have taken control of the strategic towns of Mankulam, Olumadu, Karupaddamurippu, Ampakamam, Kanakarayankulam and Nainamadu.
Earlier this week the Tigers captured two key towns of Oddusuddan and Nedunkerny on the east of the A9 highway.
The Tigers say they have now taken control of vast area between Mankulam and Puliyankulam, which was captured by the SLA in Operation Jayasikurui, the SLA's biggest and longest operation against the LTTE, conducted from May 1997 to October 1998.