Troops geared to face LTTE gas attacks: army

September 18th, 2008 - 1:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Sep 18 (IANS) The Sri Lankan Army “is fully equipped and well geared to face any unacceptable chemical or gas attacks of the enemy”, the army headquarters said.The army statement has raised suspicions that the Tamil Tigers might resort to gas attacks to stall the military advance in the last of rebel bastions in the country’s north.

The army said late Wednesday that it had distributed gas masks among the troops in the northern battlefront.

The statement came amid allegations that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is “resorting to ‘gas attacks’ against the security forces and some soldiers were already affected”.

According to the army statement, a few soldiers in the Wanni — which includes Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts — in recent days “developed breathing difficulties following emission of a gas, believed to have been directed by the Tigers”.

“Investigations went into the incidents soon after admission of those soldiers to the hospitals have affirmed Tiger terrorists have used CS gas, generally used for anti-hijack or hostage operations,” it said.

The statement pointed out that the use of any chemical or gas in warfare goes against UN Conventions and accepted norms.

There was no response from the LTTE in this regard.

The largely forested district of Mullaitivu as well as Kilinochchi are the two districts held by the LTTE, which is fighting to carve out a separate state comprising the northern and the eastern regions.

The Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) meanwhile claimed Thursday that the troops had captured about 1.5 kilometers stretch of well-fortified forward defences from the rebels in Nachchikuda, a village to the west of Kilinochchi.

“Heavy fighting occurred throughout the day and 25 LTTE cadres were killed while 30 were wounded. The death toll of the soldiers has increased to six while 25 more have been wounded,” the MCNS said.

The pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Wednesday condemned what it termed was “indiscriminate bombardment on civilian areas” at Vaddakkachchi in Kilinochchi Wednesday.

The TNA, which has 22 members in the 225-member parliament, alleged that the air force dropped bombs on a densely populated settlement of internally displaced people, wounding two of them.

The TNA allegation came few hours after the air force claimed that its fighter jets have bombed what was suspected to be “one of the hideouts of Velupillai Prabhakaran”, the elusive leader of the LTTE.

The UN and other aid agencies moved out of LTTE-held areas in the north this week after the government directed to them pull out citing security concerns.

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