[TamilNet, Monday, 18 February 2002, 06:22 GMT]
(Photographs) The TamilNet correspondent for Vavuniya visited the Vanni after the A-9 highway was reopened on Friday, February 15 from Vavuniya up to Killinochchi, as part of ongoing efforts to de-escalate the conflict. The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) opened the A9 highway northwards from Omanthai and the Liberation Tigers opened the southern end of the section of the road which falls within their areas.
(Please click on the images for larger photos)
- (Photo left) Cabinet Minister Mr.Noordeen Masoor (centre) along with Vavuniya Government Agent Mr.S.Ganesh and Maj.Gen. Jayantha Ranaweera, at Omanthai.
- (Photo right) Vavuniya Government Agent Mr.S.Ganesh welcomming the first civilian passenger from LTTE held Vanni region at Vilakkuvaiththakulam. Up to seven hundred people crossed over from each side to the other on the day.
- (Photos below) Civilians are being escorted by officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC has often been involved in crossing the lines, often in less relaxed circumstances.
- (Above left) Passengers at the Vavuniya bus terminal leaving for Vanni. The A9 allows relatively rapid access up to Kilinochchi, the last major town before the road enters the Jaffna peninsula through Elephant Pass. That section of the road is also expected to be opened following the permanent ceasefire between the two sides.
- (Above right) The signboard, alongside the road which was the target of protracted and bloody fighting from May 1997 to October 1998 reads "Vanni welcomes you".
- (Below left) Despite the successes, a board put up by demining division of the LTTE cautions travellers: "Warning mines, death beneath your feet"
(Below right)The de-mining team of the Liberation Tigers who cleared the route north of Omanthia for civilian transport. Large numbers of explosive devices were discovered and made safe by LTTE and SLA sappers in the hectic days ahead of the road opening.
- (Above left) Mr.Thangan (Sutha), Administrative Secretary of the Liberation Tigers’ political section enjoys a lighter moment with a senior LTTE member Pulithevan (left).
- (Above right)Two journalists from Tamil Tiger held Vanni who were allowed to enter Sri Lanka Army held region interviewing Milinda Moragoda, Minister of Economic Reforms, Science, Technology.
Fighters of the Liberation Tigers in high spirits pose for press photographers from both areas.