SLA denies withdrawals

[TamilNet, Monday, 20 December 1999, 12:42 GMT]
A spokesman for the Sri Lankan military, Brigadier Sunil Tennekoon said at a press conference today that the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has "rearranged" its defences at Vettilakerni only. He also said the attacks on both the People's Alliance and United National Party (UNP) rallies were caused by suicide bombers.

The military spokesman denied the SLA had withdrawn from any positions in the Elephant Pass area, except at Vettilakerni where, according to him, defences had been rearranged.

However, SLA sources in Jaffna told journalists that SLA units had made tactical withdrawals from Vettilakerni, Kaddaikadu and Pullaveli bases in the early part of last week and from Paranthan on Friday.

They could not confirm LTTE claims to have captured the chemical factory north of Paranthan as well.

Brigadier Tennekoon also maintained the SLA had inflicted heavy losses on the Liberation Tigers.

He said, quoting "intelligence sources," that in the 3 days up to December 18, the SLA had killed 300 LTTE fighters and wounded 1000. The SLA lost 87 soldiers and 870 were wounded of which 65 percent sustained minor injuries, he said.

The SLA had killed or wounded 600 Tigers on Saturday, he said.

The Liberation Tigers said Friday they had lost only 78 fighters since the fighting began.

Brigadier Tennekoon told the press conference today that suicide bombers of the LTTE were responsible for the bomb blasts at Colombo municipal grounds and Ja-ela political meetings on Saturday.

However, he stressed that the Police and SLA are prepared to maintain law and order throughout the island on the presidential election day.

Opposition party officials however said the blast at their rally at Ja-ela had been carried out by supporters of the ruling People's Alliance.

The attack killed 11 people, including former SLA chief of staff, Maj. General Lucky Algama (retd). The UNP officials said a hand grenade is thought to have been tossed into the rally.

 

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