Sri Lanka jets pound LTTE targets, toll exceeds 150April 24th, 2008 - 1:59 pm ICT by admin
By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 24 (IANS) Sri Lankan jets Thursday pounded suspected Tamil Tiger targets as the military said that the death toll from Wednesday bloodiest battle in the island’s northern Jaffna peninsula had crossed 150. “Air force fighter jets made precision air sorties this morning at what was identified as a ‘Black Tigers’ training facility at Pannikkankulam, northwest of Mankulam junction in Mullaitiuvu district,” the defence ministry said.
It said the air raids conducted at 6.20 a.m. were based “on reliably obtained information of intensified activities in the area”.
The “Black Tigers” are the suicide squads of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is campaigning for over a quarter century to form an independent state called Tamil Eelam.
The defence ministry in a separate report said Thursday that “over 100 LTTE including 15 senior cadres and 43 soldiers were killed in fierce fighting that lasted for 11 hours in the narrow and open land stretches at Muhamalai and Kilali areas in Jaffna” Wednesday.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that heavy fighting broke out when the LTTE “launched a pre-dawn attack on the military’s forward defences at Kilali and Muhamalai areas”.
“According to latest reports, we have 43 soldiers killed in action, 33 soldiers missing in action and another 120 wounded in action. The LTTE has lost over 100 cadres killed and hundreds wounded,” Brig. Nananayakkara told IANS over phone.
The defence ministry report said that the troops “have also recovered (bodies of) nine LTTE (guerrillas) left behind as the army pushed and gained control over the LTTE’s first line of defence at Muhamalai.
“Many LTTE bodies are scattered in the area and preparations are (being) made to recover the bodies and hand them over to the LTTE through the ICRC,” it said.
Nanayakkara said that having thwarted the LTTE offensive, the army’s 53 and 55 divisions went about 500 metres into LTTE-held areas and took control of the LTTE’s first line of defence along the eight-kilometre stretch from Muhamalai to Kilali.
However, LTTE military spokesman Rasaiyah Illanthirayan in an e-mail statement to the media said Wednesday that the rebels had “fully thwarted” the military’s pre-dawn attempt to break into LTTE areas on the northern front.
“The Sri Lanka Army suffered more than 100 killed in action and about 400 wounded in action. Sixteen LTTE cadres sacrificed their lives in this confrontation,” he claimed, adding that the rebels have recovered bodies of 30 soldiers.
He released a long list of military hardware the LTTE says it has captured from the military.
Brigadier Nanayakkara, however, rejected the LTTE claims as “rubbish and grossly exaggerated” and said that the army was consolidating its newly captured positions.
Independent verification of the battlefront casualties is not possible because journalists are barred from visiting the area.
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