Sri Lanka steps up air raids, LTTE reiterates truce offer(Lead)

November 9th, 2008 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

!– Imagr –Colombo, Nov 9 (IANS) The Sri Lankan Air Force Sunday stepped up air raids targeting suspected Tamil Tiger positions in the north amid reports that the rebel outfit has reiterated its consent for cessation of hostilities with the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said the air force jets launched “simultaneous air strikes at 12.50 p.m. targeting a Sea Tiger commander centre” one kilometer north of Paranthan, and an artillery gun position six km southeast of Pooneryn.

“Targets were effectively engaged and we believe that the LTTE has suffered heavy damage in the air raids,” Nanayakkara told IANS.

Pooneryn and Paranthan are located in the rebel-held Kilinochchi district and the air raids were made in support of the ground troops engaging in multi-pronged push towards the rebel strongholds.

The fresh air raids have came barely hours after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels, facing a fierce military thrust in the borders of their “administrative capital” of Kilinochchi in the north, reiterated their consent for a ceasefire with the Sri Lankan government.

According the pro-LTTE Tamilnet website, the LTTE’s political wing head B. Nadesan made these remarks Saturday, following reports of Tamil Nadu leaders seeking clarification on rebels’ stand on ceasefire.

“There is no hesitation on our side to reiterate our position that we have always wanted a ceasefire. It is the government of Sri Lanka that unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire,” Nadesan was quoted as saying.

Nadesan told Tamilnet that the Tamil Tigers “were only fighting a defensive war since Colombo has thrust upon Tamils an aggressive war”, stressing that the rebel outfit has “always reiterated that they have been committed to the ceasefire”.

Getting impatient with the LTTE, the Rajapaksa government unilaterally abrogated the Norwegian-brokered six-year long truce with the LTTE in January, which literarily brought an end to the Norwegian facilitation.

There was no immediate reaction to the LTTE’s latest statement from the Rajapaksa administration, which said in the recent past that defeating the LTTE militarily was a prerequisite for any political solution to the island’s prolonged ethnic conflict.

A prompt reply from the LTTE hierarchy has come within a day after the state secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI) D. Pandian issued a public statement urging those who were fighting for the democratic rights of the Eelam Tamils, especially the political leadership of the Liberation Tigers, to come forward to announce their stand in a clarifying manner.

“Those who are fighting for the democratic rights of Sri Lankan Tamils, especially the LTTE, should declare that they are ready for a peaceful settlement through negotiations,” Pandian said in India Saturday.

He was referring to the contention of the Indian government and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi that not only the Sri Lankan government but also the LTTE should adhere to a ceasefire.

The LTTE has been fighting against the Sri Lankan government for a separate Tamil state in the northern and eastern parts of the island for over a quarter century.

Sri Lankan troops, backed by artillery and aerial bombardment, have advanced deep into the rebel-held areas in many front amid fierce LTTE resistance.

Vowing to capture the rebel-stronghold of Kilinochchi, the military brass claimed last week that troops were operating just a few kilometers away from Kilinochchi town, lying 350 km north of Colombo.

Defence experts say the recapture of Kilinochchi by the government troops well after a decade would deal a major blow to the LTTE militarily and psychologically.

Thousands have died and several hundreds of thousands have faced displacement in the renewed fighting since late 2005.

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