Fighting was at close quarters - MoD

[TamilNet, Friday, 05 December 1997, 23:59 GMT]
A communique put out by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense in Colombo tonight (another had been put out at 10.30 a.m.) confirmed doubts cast by informed sources in Vavuniya on the veracity of claims which emanated this morning from certain sections of the military establishment in Colombo, namely that SLA troops who were attacked yesterday by the Liberation Tigers had earlier destroyed an LTTE base along with two 120 mm mortars that had been there.

The MoD communique issued tonight states:

"On 04 December 1997 terrorists engaged troops from well prepared defenses when troops were approaching identified terrorist concentrations."

"Troops supported by artillery retaliated causing heavy casualties among the terrorists. Fighting was at close quarters and intense. Fighting which broke out around 9.a.m. continued till late afternoon."

The communique also says that "Although there was intimation by the ICRC that some dead bodies of soldiers were to be handed over, this has not taken place up to now."

Sources in Vavuniya said that four lorries are on their way to Vavuniya with the bodies of 113 soldiers who were killed by the Liberation Tigers at Mannakulam.

Well informed sources in Vavuniya said that the army had tried to achieve a link up at Kanakarayan Kulam with a view to subseqently cutting off Tiger troops in the general area of Puliyankulam by moving in the northeast direction through Puthur.

Mannakulam is about three kilometers northeast of Puthur on the dust road which links it with Kanakarayan Kulam, said the sources.

The LTTE had thwarted a previous attempt by Jayasikurui troops to capture Puthur and them advance from it. The SLA lost two Main Battle Tanks here and retreated.


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