LTTE blasts bridge, ammunition dumps and shoots down Helicopter Gunship

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 10 June 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Latest reports coming from Thandikulam in the northern Vanni mainland, 260 kilometres north of Colombo, suggest that hundreds of soldiers killed and many more wounded. According to Colombo sources the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has destroyed at least 5 battle tanks and two ammunition dumps that were located at Thandikulam and Samayapuram five kilometres north of the government held town of Vavuniya.

It is also claimed that they have captured atleast two artillery pieces from the Sri Lankan government forces. According to an eye witness, who spoke from the Northern government held town of Vavuniya, one of the helicopter gunships that had rushed to the aid of the government troops was also shot down by the LTTE.

Thandikulam offensive Exact number of casualties are not known at this moment but reports suggest that the military was caught off guard and it is estimated to run into many hundreds as the explosions at two large ammunition dumps which were located at Thandikulam and Samayapuram have devastated a large area. This was confirmed by the Sri Lankan military spokesman Brigadier Sarath Munasinghe who spoke to the press today. According to an eye witness, who spoke from the Northern government held town of Vavuniya, one of the helicopter gunships that had rushed to the aid was also shot down by the LTTE.

Earlier a government official (on condition of anonymity) said that more than 150 soldiers were injured and atleast 50 were killed in the offensive that was launched at the early hours of today. However, other reports coming from Vavuniya suggest that the deathtoll could be higher. There was no independent confirmation of the claim as the government has imposed a tight censorship on all news items from the war zone. An LTTE spokesman, Mr. Anton Raja speaking from London has warned the Sri Lankan government to expect more such attacks in the coming weeks.

Earlier reports from Vavuniya said that the LTTE launched a massive counter offensive against the Sri Lankan military who were stationed at Thandikulam in the early hours of today. It is estimated that more than 400 LTTE troops participated in the counter offensive at what is now being referred to as the tail of the Main Supply Route (MSR) to Jaffna peninsula from two flanks. Sri Lankan military spokesman Brigadier Sarath Munasinghe has said that the military was successful in launching a counter offensive and in beating back the attackers but reports coming from Vavuniya suggests that the LTTE was still in control of the town. The LTTE blasted a bridge between the town of Vavuniya and Nochchimoddai earlier today to prevent any help from reaching the stranded soldiers.

The Sri Lankan Army had deployed two divisions comprising of nearly 20,000 soldiers to open the MSR to the Jaffna peninsula. Military analysts were expecting the LTTE to attack the front line forces in Omanthai as the jungle terrain in the surrouding areas of this small town that was recently captured by the government forces was more suitable for such a guerilla style counter offensive.

Military observers had warned of such an attack and had said that the LTTE could cripple the whole military machine if it was to attack the soldiers who were nearly 15 kms inside the (LTTE-dominated) Vanni mainland. This attack has stalled the military operation 'Jaya Sikuru'("Sure of Victory") launched on the May 13 as the front line forces were cut off from their bases in Vavuniya town.

The Tigers intensified their campaign for a Tamil Homeland and for the right of Self-determination in the Island's north and east after 1983 riots. The war has claimed the lives of more than 50,000 Tamils in the past 14 years and has made more than 750,000 Tamils homeless.


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