Heavy casualties in Jaffna fighting
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 17 January 2001, 19:02 GMT]
Airstrikes and heavy exchanges or artillery rocked the Jaffna peninsula Wednesday as the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) continued to face determined resistance from the Liberation Tigers, sources close to the LTTE said. Over 100 SLA troops and 70 Tigers have been killed in the past two days, sources close to the LTTE said Thursday evening. Over 400 SLA troops have been wounded, they added.
Following the launch of a massive offensive Tuesday with thousands of troops supported by armour, artillery and airpower, the SLA had advanced 1.5kms against fierce LTTE resistance, but had not attempted to resume troop movements Wednesday, the sources said.
Instead, the SLA was continuing a heavy barrage using artillery and multi-barrelled rocket launchers (MBRLs), as Mig-27 jet bombers of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) flew repeated sorties against LTTE positions, they said.
"The Army has clearly been surprised by the resistance it is facing," the sources said. Both sides were making preparations for ongoing fighting, they added.
The SLA said in Colombo that it had not made major advances Wednesday, but said it had secured two "vital" positions. The SLA said it had suffered 54 killed and 227 wounded. It also said it had killed 50 Tigers and said it had handed back the bodies of 20 of them through the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC).
The (ICRC) on Wednesday afternoon transferred the bodies from Gurunagar to Kalmunai point in the Pooneryn region and handed them over to the LTTE representatives in Vanni, the spokesman for the organisation, Harasha Gunawardena said.
The SLA says its objective is Elephant Pass, the location of a former military complex, the loss of which in April last year to an LTTE onslaught is said to have been the Army's worst defeat.
The LTTE says that apart from defensive measures against Sri Lankan military attack, it is desisting from offensive operations in accordance with a unilateral ceasefire it announced Christmas Eve. The ceasefire is due to expire on January 24. The Sri Lankan government has rejected the ceasefire and said it will continue its offensives against the LTTE.