Feature Article

3,000 Sri Lankan troops killed in three months, Army to double – newspapers

[TamilNet, Sunday, 11 January 2009, 12:37 GMT]
Three thousand Sri Lankan soldiers were killed fighting the Liberation Tigers in the past three months, the Sunday Island newspaper reported this week, quoting government Defence spokesman and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella. He was responding to opposition charges that 15,000 troops had been killed in the battles since October last year. Meanwhile SLA commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka wants to eventually double the size of the SLA to 300,000 soldiers to hold areas captured from the LTTE. A colonel of the SLA’s Air Mobile brigade was killed in a booby trap explosion in the fighting for Elephant Pass last week, the Sunday Times reported.

Asked about opposition claims of heavy SLA casualties in the heavy fighting in the Vanni, Rambukwella told the Sunday Island, that the figure of 15,000 soldiers dead was exaggerated and not correct. "According to our estimates, around 3,000 soldiers have been killed in action since October 2008."

Meanwhile, SLA commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka was quoted as saying the government has decided to increase the number of soldiers to 200,000. The SLA has an official strength of 160,000.

The Nation newspaper added that Lt. Gen. Fonseka is of the view that at least 300,000 personnel will be needed to ensure security in the areas recaptured by the SLA in the Vanni operations.

The Sri Lanka Army already has eight divisions deployed to fight the LTTE, The Nation said, adding that another, Task Force V, which was raised as the ninth fighting division was deployed a week ago for holding operations of crucial areas already cleared and the security of A-9 Highway.

As the SLA commander unveiled plans to expand the numbers of troops, Minister Rambukwelle said that there are only two thousand Tamil Tiger fighters left.

Asked about the whereabouts of LTTE chief Velupillai Pirapaharan, Mr. Rambukwelle told the Sunday Island: "He is in Mullaithivu and being guarded by the 2,000 cadres that the LTTE has left. It is a matter of time before its last bastion is also overrun."

Asked if he thought the remaining LTTE cadres could regroup and operate as an effective guerilla organization, the minister opinioned: "No, they might be able to cause some damage occasionally, but the LTTE, as an organization, has lost its effectiveness and the morale of their cadres is very low. They can no longer pose a serious threat."

The Nation and Sunday Times reported that the commander of the 5th Battalion of the Gemunu Watch (under the Air Mobile Brigade) was killed last week in a booby trap explosion at Pullopallai near Elephant Pass hours before it was occupied by the SLA.

Colonel Nalinda Kumarasinghe (posthumously promoted from Lt. Col) was the senior-most Sri Lankan officer killed in this phase of the war, the paper said.


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