Kilinochchi reversal, not setback - SLA

[TamilNet, Thursday, 01 October 1998, 11:35 GMT]
Sri Lanka Army (SLA) spokesman Brigadier Sunil Tennakoon appeared flustered and discomfited by questions journalists fired today at the weekly cabinet press briefing, regarding the fall of the Kilinochchi base. He said that the army received 600 bodies yesterday through the ICRC and by this morning 400 had been identified.

He said that the Sri Lanka Army has "tactically moved out of the Kilinochchi town".

Brig. Tennakoon said that the army had retrieved neither the bodies of its own dead or those of the Liberation Tigers in the Kilinochchi fighting.

Answering a journalist who asked him whether the debacle in Kilinochchi was a setback, the Brigadier said that it was merely "a reversal".

The military spokesman claimed that Mankulam was captured yesterday at 9.30 a.m. and said that this town was strategically more important than Kilinochchi because it is a key junction in the Vanni.

Ninety two SLA soldiers were killed and four hundred were wounded in the fighting that erupted when the SLA advanced towards the junction yesterday according to Brigadier Tennakoon.

A journalist interjected at this point, saying that at least 600 soldiers wounded in the Mankulam fighting have been admitted so far to the Colombo hospital alone, according to the Ministry of Health.

In an awkward attempt to skirt this preposterous situation into which he had unwittingly painted himself, Brigadier Tennakoon replied that the extra numbers may have been brought in from "other fronts".

This drew laughter from the media persons at the briefing.

The military spokesman claimed that 400 Liberation Tigers were killed in the Mankulam fighting, of which the SLA has recovered the bodies of 36 along with 72 assault rifles, 8 Light Machine Guns, 3 RPGs, 60 anti-personnel mines, 6 anti tank mines. He also said that 26 Liberation Tigers surrendered to the SLA.

Cabinet spokesmen Minister for Constitutional Affairs Prof. G.L Pieris and Minister for Media, Posts and Telecommunications Mr.Mangala Samaraweera were not present at the briefing today. They are abroad said government sources.

Acting Media Minister MLM Hisbullah and Minister for Planning and Implementation Jayaraj Fernandopulle were present instead.

The latter said that the Deputy Minister for Defence , Gen A. Ratwatte had briefed the cabinet about the situation in the northern battle fronts but refused to divulge details of the matter to the press.

 

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