Sri Lanka Army launches tank offensive on Vaharai
[TamilNet, Thursday, 23 November 2006, 03:43 GMT]
Heavy fighting broke out between the Sri Lanka Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, at the southern border of Vaharai region in Batticaloa district Thursday as SLA troopers from Kajuwatte and Mankerni SLA camps, launched a ground troop movement backed by heavy mortar, artillery and Multi-Barrel Rocket fire, into the LTTE territory Thursday around 8:30 a.m. The fresh SLA operation comes following Sri Lankan defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwela's interpretation on Wednesday that the outcome of a crucial meeting by the Co-Chairs was not hard as Colombo had feared. Mr. Rambukwela had said Sri Lanka's "national security" had a higher priority than upholding the ceasefire.
LTTE Military Spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan Thursday morning said the tank offensive by the SLA beyond the no-go zone into LTTE territory was repulsed by the Tigers.
Casualty details were not known.
Two weeks ago, on 08 November, 47 Tamil civilians, most of them Internally displaced women and children from Trincomalee, were killed and more than 100 civilians were wounded in a Sri Lanka Army MBRL and artillery barrage on Kathiraveli and Vaharai.
The region has been blocked for humanitarian access.
Tamil parliamentarians have accused the Sri Lankan military was using food as weapon, starving the civilians by imposing an economic blockade, blocking humanitarian agencies and launching attack on the civilians in a military campaign to drive out civilians from the LTTE controlled region after causing a humanitarian catastrophe.
The Sri Lankan military had claimed that the indiscriminate attack on Kathiraveli on November 08, was carried by the SLA after it was attacked by the LTTE justifying the artillery barrage as a defensive measure.
However, a Sinhala Human Rights activist, Sunila Abeyasekara, who visited Vaharai after the artillery barrage that killed 47 civilians, said there was no firing from LTTE controlled Kathiraveli on November 08 or the day before as claimed by the SLA.
The SLA has been blocking humanitarian convoys into the region, citing alleged artillery and mortar fire on Mankerni entry point.
The Tigers have accused Colombo for not allowing the independent ceasefire monitors, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, to be present in Vaharai region.