Casualties rise as Jaffna battle rages

[TamilNet, Friday, 27 April 2001, 16:05 GMT]
Heavy fighting continued for the third day in the southern Jaffna peninsula, with both the Liberation Tigers and Sri Lanka Army troops using heavy artillery, official LTTE sources said Thursday. LTTE casualties on Friday night stood at 48 killed, they said. The SLA continued to suffer casualties as troops attempting to dig into a captured salient 1km inside the LTTE's defence lines near Eluthumadduval, the sources further said.

"[LTTE] artillery and mortar fire is being concentrated [on the area]," the sources said.

The Sri Lanka army began a fresh attempt to push into territory held by the Liberation Tigers in the southern parts of Jaffna from Friday afternoon. The army had to abandon some areas it captured on Wednesday. The SLA officially acknowledged that 154, including three officers were killed in the fighting so far.

Fifty-one SLA personnel, including three officers have been reported missing in action, according to the army.

The actual SLA dead would be much more when the final death toll is gradually made known, sources close to the army said. They said that more than 1450 soldiers have been wounded so far in the fighting that commenced barely six hours after the LTTE called off its four month long ceasefire this month.

The SLA's 52 Division under the command of former army intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Sunil Tennekoon thrust out of Eluthumadduval and the elite US trained 53 Division commanded by Maj.Gen. Seevali Wanigasekara moved out from the Kilali sector on Wednesday against the positions of the LTTE. The elite 53 disivison came under severe counter attack by the Liberation Tigers and hence was forced to abandon its objective of linking up with the 52 Division on the A9 that was advancing on the eastern side of the A9, military sources said.

The two divisions thrust ahead in a zigzag pincer movement on either side of the Main Supply Route to Elephant Pass to secure and link up at a predetermined point.

Meanwhile an official with the International Committee of the Red Cross said his organization had been contacted by the LTTE and the SLA with regards to the transfer of combatants' bodies.

"The transfer is expected to take place on Saturday" ICRC spokesman Harasha Gunawardene said, adding that the SLA had also contacted his organization following the handing over to Jaffna hospital of the bodies of seven Tigers. The Voice of Tigers (VoT) said Friday morning it had recovered the bodies of 30 SLA troops.

 

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