LTTE asks Norway to halt Sri Lankan military operation

April 8th, 2008 - 6:47 pm ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 8 (IANS) The Tamil Tigers have urged Norway to press Sri Lanka to halt a military drive towards a 400-year-old Catholic shrine in the northwestern district of Mannar. In a letter to Norwegian Minister of International Development Erik Solheim, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) charged that a “part of the shrine is already damaged by Sri Lankan military attacks”.

LTTE political wing chief B. Nadesan said there was continued danger that the church “will sustain further damage because the military is persisting with its onslaught” aimed at hitting the Tamil Tigers.

“We would like to place a request through you, who is looked upon by the Tamil people as a peace envoy, to the Norwegian government to take steps to immediately end the military assault of the holy Madhu shrine,” the LTTE peace secretariat quoted Nadesan as saying.

“The international community together with international institutions that are concerned about protecting the historical treasures of the world must be brought together. We hope the Norwegian government, together with them, will take the necessary actions to end the attacks on the church,” Nadesan has appealed.

As fighting rages in Sri Lanka’s north, the statue of the Virgin Mary has already been removed by the church authorities and taken to a safer place - the first time in 400 years that it has moved.

The Madhu church is a known pilgrimage site for Catholics. The Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, said his repeated appeals to both sides to respect the area as a no war zone were of no avail.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara rejected the LTTE’s latest charges and stressed that the army was neither shelling nor conducting military operations towards the Madhu shrine.

“Our troops are well aware of the location of the sacred Madhu Church and we are not firing shells towards that area. We are in fact not going towards Madhu even though our radars have detected LTTE firing mortar shells towards the advancing troops from there,” Nanayakkara told IANS.

He said the troops were currently operating at Palampiddi, about 2.5 kilometres north of Madhu, and at Giant Tank area, about four kilometres west of Madhu.

“Unable to face the military thrust, the LTTE is now hell bent on creating some international pressure to stop the ongoing military operations completely by making such false allegations,” Brig. Nanayakkara charged, claiming that nearly 50 LTTE cadres were killed during weekend clashes.

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