135 Sri Lankans killed at Omanthai: LTTE

[TamilNet, Monday, 04 August 1997, 23:59 GMT]
The LTTE said that 135 Sri Lankan security personnel were killed and a further 400 wounded in the battle at Omanthai last Friday. The Tigers say they have acquired intelligence reports from the Sri Lankan high command giving the breakdown of these figures. Meanwhile the Red Cross accepted 39 Tamil bodies from the Sri Lankans and refused 70 badly mutilated ones today.

In a statement faxed to the media, the LTTE said that Sri Lankan intelligence reports say 135 Sri Lankans were killed in the 7 hour long battle on Friday night at Omanthai. The Sri Lankan ministry of defence has only publicly acknowledged the deaths of 67 men.

The Sri Lankans lost 49 soldiers, 14 navy personnel, 6 air force and 66 policemen according to the leaked reports. The Sri Lankans have officially admitted to losing 19 soldiers, 13 navy personnel and 35 policemen.

The Sri Lankans have not commented so far (as this report is being issued), but observers expect them to deny the claim. The Sri Lankan military routinely exaggerates LTTE casualties while playing down its own.

By declaring these figures, the LTTE have stated they have a mole within the Sri Lankan military intelligence, and are firing a shot in the psychological war. If the numbers are false, they would lessen their perceived threat within the Sri Lankan high command. However, if the numbers are accurate, the LTTE statement can be expected to cause alarm.

An LTTE official said "our source must be secure enough for us to release this data. In fact information would be corroborated from at least two independent sources before we are certain of it."

On being asked if this was a publicity stunt, he replied: "No, if the numbers are wrong, the Sri Lankan high command would be able to discount our intelligence services. So we wouldn't have said this if we were not sure of the data."

In other developments, the Red Cross said they had accepted the bodies of 39 Tamil troops killed in Friday's battle. A further 70 bodies supposedly of Tamils also were rejected as they had been mutilated beyond recognition.

The Sri Lankans claim they had killed over 200 Tigers, saying that 100 casualties had been carried away by the Tigers. The LTTE has said it has lost 126 troops in the attack. The Tigers' casualty lists are distributed to their international offices, so that relatives amongst the Tamil Diaspora may be informed.

An LTTE official told us that the LTTE never conceals its casualties. "Our men and women sacrifice their lives for our freedom. We are not ashamed of their deaths in combat. In fact, it is at the times of losses that the Tamil people come forward to assist us." As an example, he said that following the capture of Jaffna by the Sri Lankan army, the Tamils in the homelands and all over the world had rallied in huge numbers to show their support.

While the mutilated state of the bodies was officially attributed to the ferocity of the battle, this was not believed by Tamil fighters we spoke to. Selvan, a veteran of the Manal Aru and Mullaitivu battles said that following the abortive attack on the Manal Aru bases in July 1995, the Red Cross had accepted the bodies of Tamil troops killed in the fire-fight.

The Tigers who received the body bags found that many bodies had been badly mutilated with bayonets. Once the fallen had been given military funerals in closed coffins, all the SLA body bags were folded and stored.

A year later in July 1996, the Tigers overran the Mullaitivu military complex, killing 1200 Sinhalese soldiers. Each SLA body bag had been filled with the body of a Sinhalese soldier and returned to the Sri Lankan army via the Red Cross. Several hundred others had been wrapped in cloth. The Sri Lankans had accepted only 55, rejecting the rest which were then cremated by the Red Cross.

The LTTE official said that if the Sri Lankan government had no qualms about ignoring the bodies of 386 of its soldiers, then it would not have thought twice about passing off the bodies of Sri Lankans as those of Tamils to 'verify' its claims of Tiger casualties.


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