Storm over casualty figures

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 09 November 1999, 11:54 GMT]
The Sri Lankan President today said that media reports of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) sustaining heavy casualties in recent battles were "grossly exaggerated" and only 101 soldiers have been killed in the past week. However officials from Sri Lanka's main opposition United National Party said that the SLA had suffered "terrible losses" of over 1000 killed and accused the government of concealing a "national disaster".

In a press release today, President Chandrika said that 101 SLA soldiers have been killed and 743 wounded with 122 missing in action during the past week, in which several key towns fell to the Liberation Tigers.

But opposition party officials said that the government was concealing heavy casualties suffered by the SLA as it might adversely affect the President's election campaign.

"This is a national disaster. The government must tell the truth to the kith and kin of these soldiers who are waiting anxiously to receive some information about their beloved ones," UNP spokesman Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku was quoted as saying in the press last week.

"The government's war strategy has clearly failed," a UNP official told TamilNet today. "The losses are terrible, but the government is hiding the truth behind censorship and disinformation."

Sri Lanka introduced sweeping press censorship yesterday on all coverage related to the war and the military.

The UNP last week put the SLA's casualties at 1000 killed and over 1500 wounded on the third day of the Tiger offensive.

The UNP said the war was being conducted to gain political mileage ahead of Presidential elections next month.

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