Mankulam battle rages

[TamilNet, Monday, 22 June 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Fierce fighting is continuing between the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and the Liberation Tigers for the third consecutive day in the general area of Mankulam said LTTE sources in Europe this evening when contacted by TamilNet.

The Sri Lankan troops are attempting to advance towards Mankulam from their positions to the south-west and east of the town, they said.

Today, the SLA troops made yet an another attempt to advance towards Mankulam through Moonrumurippu, south-west of Mankulam said the sources, adding that the advance was beaten back and heavy causalities inflicted.

Heavy fighting was reported also yesterday in Moonrumurippu region.

The LTTE said in press release yesterday that a similar SLA assault had also been back.

The sources said that 10 LTTE fighters died in the fighting near Moonrumurippu yesterday, but did not say what the SLA's casualty figures were.

However, a press release issued by the Ministry of Defence this morning said, "around 10.30 am yesterday troops advanced further Northward from earlier held positions West of Mankulam and captured a terrorist bunker line."

"Terrorists launched two counter attacks on the troops with a heavy concentration of mortar fire. Troops effectively repulsed both attacks inflicting heavy casualties among terrorists." it said further.

"Kfir ground aircraft and Mi24 Helicopter of the Sri Lanka Air Force effectively engaged identified terrorist locations. Troops continue to dominate in newly captured areas." it said.

The current spate of fighting erupted when the SLA made a fresh advance towards Mankulam on June 20, after short lull of fighting prior to which heavy fighting had raged in the area.

Atleast 50 SLA soldiers were killed and many others wounded in the fighting on June 20, said LTTE sources. An SLA Main Battle Tank was destroyed and two others were damaged, they added.

They said 35 LTTE fighters have died in the fighting for Mankulam since June 20.

The SLA troops involved in Operation 'Jeyasikurui' have launched repeated assaults in the Mankulam area against fierce LTTE resistance. Hundreds of troops have been killed on both sides, and thousands wounded.

The Sri Lankan government has imposed strict censorship on the reporting of military action. This, combined with the ban on correspondents entering the war zone has made it impossible to independently verify events taking place there.


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