Mankulum takes a pounding
[TamilNet, Friday, 29 August 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Sri Lankan artillery has been targeting the Tamil town of Mankulum. The SLA is believed to be trying to disrupt LTTE plans to fortify the town, in the light of continued stiff resistance at Puliyankulum. Much of Mankulum had been blasted into rubble in earlier SLA shelling, but the latest shelling is pounding the ruins yet again.
According to reports from the government held town of Vavuniya, Sri Lankan troops attacking Puliyankulum say they advanced 100 meters yesterday, with heavy aerial support. The Tigers are said to be raining mortar shells on the advancing troops, but casualties are not known.
SLA units located south of Puliyankulum launched a fierce assault to capture the town this morning. Thousands of troops backed by tanks, helicopter gunships and artillery advanced from their positions two miles south of the town. Heavy fighting followed when the Sri Lankans ran into LTTE defences.
The SLA is said to be attributing the continuous Tiger resistance in this small town to LTTE reinforcements brought up from elsewhere, but most observers simply put the resistance down to ample defensive preparations.
The LTTE have deployed artillery and mortars in nearby jungles and established a series of bunkers within Puliyankulum village to house a small, but well armed force which has successfully held up several thousand Sinhalese troops backed by tanks, artillery and air power.
Mankulum is the next major town on the Vavuniya-Kilinochchi road which the current Sri Lankan offensive is attempting to capture. Mankulum is much larger than Puliyankulum, and fearful that the Tigers are fortifying it with similar defences to Puliyankulum, the SLA has been shelling it while the SLAF have launched harassment raids.
However, travelers who arrived in Vavuniya from Mankulum a few weeks ago say that the LTTE units had completed most of their preparations in the area several months ago, before the anticipated Sri Lankan offensive began.
Tens of thousands of displaced Tamil civilians are living in makeshift refugee camps in the vicinity of Mankulum. Shells and bombs are exploding in these areas but its not known if there have been any casualties. Thousands of Tamil civilians have been killed and wounded in Sri Lankan shelling and bombing of Tamil population centres.
The LTTE intensified its campaign for independence following the island wide pogrom against Tamils in July 1983. Over 50,000 Tamil civilians have been killed in the government's attempts to crush the Tamil struggle. In the 1977 elections, the Tamil people of the island voted overwhelmingly for parties supporting independence from Sri Lanka.