SOUTH ASIA: SRI LANKA News Briefs
Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan aka Pillayan was appointed as the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province on May 16, 2008. Since then, as many as 22 civilians, 20 security force (SF) personnel and 33 militants, including 24 LTTE militants and nine TMVP cadres, have been killed in more than 158 militancy-related incidents in the Eastern Province, according to data complied by the Institute for Conflict Management.
Some of the significant incidents of violence carried out by the LTTE in the Eastern Province since May 16, 2008, include:
October 16: Police recovered four dead bodies of farmers in the Kanchkudichchiaru area of Ampara District. The farmers were allegedly shot dead by LTTE militants.
September 21: The chief priest at the Trincomalee Koneshwaran Temple, Thivathunaraja Kurukkal, who maintained close relations with the SFs, was killed by ‘pistol gang’ militants of the LTTE while he was riding a motorcycle on Pathima Street in Trincomalee.
September 19: The Eravur area leader of the TMVP, identified as Parathawaran Udayan, was shot dead by LTTE militants near the TMVP area office located in the Thalawai area of Eravur in the Batticaloa District.
September 17: A female Assistant Engineer, Lokeshwaran Premalatha, attached with the Ministry of Nation Building and actively engaged in the eastern development programme, Negenahira Navodaya (Resurrection of the East), was shot dead by two ‘pistol gang’ militants of the LTTE at her residence at Thihativu in the Kalawanchikudi area of Batticaloa District.
August 26: Using a small aircraft, the LTTE dropped two improvised bombs on the Trincomalee Naval Base. The LTTE launched the air raid on the naval camp at about 9:15 pm (SLST). While one of the two bombs failed to explode, 10 sailors were injured in the attack.
August 15: An Eelam People’s Democratic Party member was shot dead by LTTE militants in the Kaththankudy area of Batticaloa District.
July 10: Three civilians, identified as Surendra Kumara, Wasantha Premakumara and Asanka Namal Buddhika from the Wattegama area of Kurunegala District, were shot dead by a ‘pistol gang’ militant of the LTTE in the Kalmunai area of Ampara District.
June 23: Three Policemen were killed and another injured when suspected LTTE militants carried out a bomb explosion near the Aiyththamalai Police Post in Batticaloa District.
June 2: The TMVP Eravurpattu Pradeshiya Sabha Deputy Chairman, Aiyathurai Pushpanadan alias Kattan, and his bodyguard, Arsakoon Pullai Mohandas alias Amburaj, were shot dead by suspected ‘pistol gang’ militants of the LTTE at Eravur in the Kalawanchikudi area of Batticaloa District.
May 22: Two members of the TMVP and three civilians were killed and four other people were wounded by suspected militants in two separate incidents in the Batticaloa District. Two TMVP cadres, including the party's chief organiser for Katankudi, were shot dead by suspected LTTE militants. In a separate incident, also at Arayampathi in Katankudi area, three Muslim civilians were killed by suspected militants.
On the other hand, the SFs have killed several LTTE militants, including some top leaders, and have also neutralised many of the outfit’s plans by recovering large hauls of arms and ammunition, undermining the LTTE’s efforts to re-establish its stronghold in the East, an objective the LTTE leadership had articulated when it lost its citadel in July 2007. On October 3, 2008, three LTTE militants were killed after a confrontation with a combined Army-Air Force foot patrol in the eastern village of Kattikulam in the Trincomalee District. Separately, two LTTE cadres were killed and their bodies found subsequently by the SFs at Vellankulam in the Trincomalee District on August 27, 2008. The slain militants were identified as Viniden, the Trincomalee North area leader, and Kanthan. The SFs also killed LTTE’s intelligence wing leader for Trincomalee, Soundrarajan alias Thangan, during a clearing operation at Manachchena in the east of Neelapola on June 19, 2008. He had been entrusted with the clandestine operation since January 2008, after his predecessor, Ari Chelvam was killed by the Army. Earlier, on June 10, 2008, three ‘pistol gang’ militants of the LTTE were killed during a Police and Army combined cordon and search operation at Pallikudiruppu in the Akkaraipattu area of Ampara District. In another significant incident on July 17, 2008, the SFs recovered a powerful three-kilogram Claymore mine and two hand grenades from the Valaichchenai Railway Station premises in the Batticaloa District following a tip-off given by a civilian, thus averting a major bloodbath, since a train from Polonnaruwa was expected at the station just a few minutes after the recoveries were made. The claymore, two hand grenades, two 9-V batteries and the 120-m long detonator wire had been kept covered, in close proximity to the main entrance of the Railway Station.
Meanwhile, according to an October 21, 2008, report, the Sri Lankan Government has disclosed that the de-mining process in the Eastern Province is almost finished. M.S Jayasinghe, senior consultant to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights indicated that 95 percent of the de-mining had been finished, adding, "Thoppigala in Batticaloa District is the only area still to de-mine." He also said that once the full de-mining process is completed, the Government would take measures to resettle the people in Thoppigala area. Earlier, on September 19, 2008, Secretary to the Resettlement Ministry, A.C.M. Razik, had said the resettlement of the Eastern Province is almost finished under the region's development project and that 51,851 families have been resettled. The Government has reportedly allocated a total of SLR 2 billion for the development of infrastructure and de-mining operations in the Eastern Province.
But the simmering intra party rivalry in the TMVP since the return of its founder Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan aka ‘Colonel’ Karuna Amman on July 3 is the worrisome factor which seems to undo all that the Government has achieved so far. Karuna has returned to Sri Lanka after completing his prison term in Britain on charges of violation of immigration laws. At this juncture, there appears to be no end of clashes between the two factions of the TMVP – led respectively by Pillayan and Karuna. In one such incident, cadres of the two factions clashed over the party's printing press in the Batticaloa town on October 17, 2008. According to the Police, the Karuna faction of the TMVP raided the printing office, "Thenagama", run by the Pillayan faction and took the control, detaining 13 members of the Pillayan group. No one was, however, reported injured in the incident.
Colombo, though, has tried to pacify the two factions. Karuna was sworn in as a Member of Parliament, representing the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), on October 6, 2008, even as Pillayan retains his control of the Eastern Province. But the fight for dominance between the two factions is far from over. An October 21 report stated that, in a meeting with the heads and editors of media at the presidential secretariat, Karuna had argued that Police powers should not be devolved to Provincial Councils, a provision under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. "We do not need police powers at the moment because of the current security situation," he had said at the meeting chaired by President Mahinda Rajapakse. Distancing itself from Karuna’s stand, the TMVP leadership, according to an October 23 report, has demanded full Police powers in the Eastern province. Kumarasamy Nandagopan aka Raghu stated that the TMVP is for the full devolution of powers, including Police powers, to the regions, contrary to views expressed by Karuna. Stressing his authority as President of the party according to the registration documents, he argued that Karuna’s opinion did not reflect that of the party. He added that a formal letter had been sent by the TMVP General Secretary demanding an explanation from Karuna in this regard.
The internal rivalries between the factions have escalated as a result of the security scenario in the province. US Ambassador Robert Blake, while addressing the inauguration ceremony of the Kalawanchikudi Vocational Training Centre in the Batticaloa District on September 23, 2008, noted that abductions, extra-judicial killings and other security challenges must end in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka to attract private sector investments to develop the region. The International Crisis Group, in its report of October 15, 2008, has noted that Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese all feel weak and under threat, and recent ethnic violence could easily worsen. The Province witnessed large scale communal tension after the abductions of a Muslim youth from Eravur in the Batticaloa District on May 22, 2008, compelling the Government to impose curfew, and still suffers under the scourge of militancy.
‘Operation Watershed’, which commenced on July 22, 2006, with the closure of the Mavil Aru anicut by the LTTE, depriving over 30,000 people of water, ended successfully on August 11, 2007, culminated in the re-establishment of democratic institutions in the Eastern Province. The province is ethnically the most complex region of the country and has been the epicentre of post-independence conflicts. As the LTTE comes under increasing pressure in the North, it will seek greater destabilisation of the East, and the objectives of democratisation and normalisation in the province are bound to be jeopardised further. It is imperative, consequently, for the Rajapakse Government to urgently address the problems of the ‘Eastern Cauldron’, notwithstanding the more pressing engagement in the war in the north.
[South Asian Intelligence Review]
Abortive LTTE air raid on Kelanitissa Power Station in Colombo and Mannar Army headquarters: A Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) aircraft dropped two bombs targeting the Kelanitissa Power Station in Colombo in the night of October 28. However, no casualties were reported. According to military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara the blast caused a minor fire at the power station which was doused by fire-fighters. A civilian injured in the bombing succumbed to his injuries on October 29. Prior to this incident, on October 28, an LTTE light aircraft dropped three bombs on the Mannar Army Headquarters in Thalladi. Brigadier Nanayakkara said no damage was caused to the camp or any other military logistics facility in the area. Three soldiers were injured in the attack. Daily News, October 29, 2008.
20 LTTE militants among 56 persons killed in the first four days of the week: 20 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 33 soldiers and five civilians were killed in separate incidents between October 20 and October 23. The Sri Lankan military on October 20 claimed to have established complete domination over the western Kilinochchi battlefront. The Military said 33 soldiers were killed, 48 injured and three others went missing in pitched battles with the LTTE. The military also said that, in mop-up operations, dead bodies of 11 militants were recovered along with large quantities of ammunition.
The Sri Lankan Defence ministry on October 24 said it is suspending the release of casualty figures during the current fighting in the north of the country. "We took this decision to stop confusion. Recent times, there were instances when different Government agencies had given conflicting figures of casualties," the Director General of the Media Centre for National Security, Laxman Hulugalle, told BBC Sinhala. "Casualty figures varied depending on the source. I accept that they are all Government sources but they do not always have the same figures. This can be damaging when quoted by the media. In a war situation like the one we are in at the moment, it is important to be selective about what can be revealed. In a battle it is important to concentrate on the territory we gained rather than the amount of men we lose," Hulugalle said. The move comes after the Defence Ministry said 33 troops were killed at the weekend, an unusually high figure for the authorities to admit to. The figures were later denied by another Government department. Sri Lanka Army ; BBC, October 21-25, 2008.
179 LTTE militants among 201 persons killed during the week: 179 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 17 soldiers and five civilians were killed in separate incidents between October 13 and October 19. At least 19 LTTE militants were killed and 12 others injured as security forces (SFs) neutralised eight bunkers and a camp of the LTTE in the areas west of Akkarayankulam and Vannavikulam in the Kilinochchi District. One soldier was killed during the operations. On the same day, 16 LTTE militants were killed and three others injured as clashes erupted between the militants and the SFs in the Mankulam, Nallikulam, Akkarayankulam, Vannavikulam and Paraikandamadu areas of Kilinochchi District. Two soldiers were killed and seven others sustained injuries in the incident. At least 37 LTTE militants were killed and 36 others injured as clashes erupted between the SFs and the militants in the Akkarayankulam north, west and east, Wannarikulam, Madamodei and Pannaikandamdu areas of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts on October 14. Seven soldiers were killed in these confrontations. On October 19, troops attached to the 57 Division and Task Force I, captured more than a 1.5 kilometre stretch of earth bund in the West of Akkarayankulam and another stretch from the east of Akkarayankulam in the Kilinochchi District, killing at least 75 militants. An unspecified number of soldiers were also killed. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, October 13-19, 2008.
271 LTTE militants among 338 persons killed during the week: 271 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 35 civilians and 32 soldiers were among 338 persons killed in separate incidents between October 6 and October 12. At least 20 LTTE militants and four soldiers were killed while 27 militants and six soldiers were wounded as the troops captured a section of the bunker line constructed along the Nachchakuda – Akkarayankulam Road at Panniwedikulam in the West of Vannerikuma area in the Kilinochchi District on October 4. This strategic success now deprives the LTTE of a vital supply route to Nachchakuda. The security forces (SFs) on October 5 killed eight LTTE militants and injured at least nine others during clashes in the Iranamadu and southwest of Iranamadu areas in the Kilinochchi District. Two soldiers were also killed in these operations. At least nine militants were killed and 27 others injured as SFs neutralized four LTTE bunkers in the Adampankula, Madam, Kidippidikulam, Terankandal, Alankulam, Odrattakulam, Andankulam and Gajabapura areas Vavuniya and Kilinochchi Districts on October 6. One soldier was also killed during the confrontations. At least 16 LTTE militants were killed and 26 others injured as the troops captured a line of LTTE bunkers in the Andankulam area of Vavuniya District on October 7. Eight soldiers were also killed while 45 others sustained injuries during these clashes. Separately, at least 21 LTTE militants were killed and an unspecified number of them injured during clashes with the SFs at Wanniyarkulam in the area north of Panniwedikulam in the Kilinochchi District on October 8. At least 22 LTTE militants were killed as the troops neutralised five militant bunkers in the Akkarayankulam and Vannavikulam areas of Kilinochchi District on October 9. One soldier was also killed during the clash. Another 14 militants were killed and 10 others injured by the troops in the Maniarkulam area on October 11. Two soldiers were also killed in the incident. On October 12, 40 militants were killed as the troops operating north east of Nachchakuda in the west of Kilinochchi District carried out attacks targeting the outfit attempting to reach reinforcements to the front. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, October 6-13, 2008.
28 persons killed in LTTE suicide attack in Anuradhapura: 28 persons, including the United National Party (UNP) North Central Province Provincial Council Member, Maj. General Janaka Perera and his wife were killed on October 6 in a suicide bomb attack by the LTTE inside the UNP office near the Old Bus Stand in Anuradhapura. More than 86 others sustained injuries in the blast that occurred around 8:45am (SLST) during a function held to declare open the new UNP office. Among the dead were UNP Manager in Anuradhapura, Dr John Pulle and his wife.
Separately, on October 9, Agriculture Development and Agrarian Services Development Minister Maithripala Sirisena escaped an LTTE suicide attack at Pirivena junction in the Boralesgamuwa area of Colombo District. A female suicide cadre blew herself up targeting Minister Sirisena’s motorcade at Pirivena junction around 1.15 pm (SLST) when the Minister was returning after a Government function in the Bandaragama area. While the Minister escaped unhurt, a civilian was killed and five others, including Deputy Minister Siripala Gamlath and newly appointed Ministry Secretary Ranjith Wijethilaka, were injured. Daily News; Colombo Page, October 7 & 10, 2008.
235 LTTE militants and 23 soldiers among 258 persons killed during the week: 235 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants and 23 soldiers were among 258 persons killed in separate incidents between September 29 and October 5. At least 39 LTTE militants were killed and 52 others injured as clashes erupted between the two sides in the Palamoddai, Akkarayankulam, Andankulam, Vannavikulam and Kariyalanmodai areas of Kilinochchi and Vavuniya Districts on September 29. Five soldiers were also killed. At least 13 LTTE militants were killed and four others injured as clashes erupted between the security forces (SFs) and the militants in the areas of north of Maniarkulam, Palamoddai, Podunkanpila, Wemankallu and Pandiyankulam in the Vavuniya and Kilinochchi Districts on September 30. One soldier was also killed. On October 1, at least 18 LTTE militants were killed and eight others injured as the troops captured another three LTTE bunkers after the clashes in the Akkarayankulam, west and south of Iranamadu tank, Vannavikulam and Maniarkulam areas in the Kilinochchi District. Separately, another 14 militants were killed and 28 others wounded as clashes erupted between the SFs and the militants in the Andankulam, Palamoddai, Nauve East, Thandiyankulam and Podunkanpila areas of Vavuniya District. One soldier was also killed. On October 2, the troops killed at least 18 militants while injuring 14 others as clashes erupted between the two sides in the Andankulam area of Vavuniya District. Six LTTE cadres were also killed and more than 20 others injured during clashes with the SFs in the Paraikandamadu, Madam and Vannavikulam areas of Kilinochchi District. Four soldiers were killed and three others sustained injuries during the fighting. On October 4, the troops captured a section of the bunker line constructed along the Nachchakuda – Akkarayankulam Road at Panniwedikulam in the West of Vannerikuma in the Kilinochchi District, killing 20 militants. Four soldiers were killed in the operation. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Colombo Page, September 30-October 6, 2008.
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