Kilinochchi struggles to limp back to life (photos)

[TamilNet, Sunday, 27 January 2002, 01:16 GMT]
The TamilNet correspondent for Vavuniya visited the Vanni recently after the Sri Lankan government eased the ban on local and foreign journalists visiting the LTTE held region. The following are a glimpse of the war-devastated land and its battle scarred life.

Kilinochchi skeletons sm
(Please click on the image for larger photo)
(Photo right) A set of human skeletons at the Akkarayan hospital in northern Vanni. Scores of skeletal remains of local civilians were recovered from shallow pits in the Kilinochchi town and its environs after the Sri Lanka army vacated the region.

The skeletons, according to medical sources, belong to civilians who went to retrieve goods and pluck coconuts from the homesteads and gardens they abandoned when the army advanced on Kilinochchi in September 1996. Many displaced civilians who strayed into zone close to the outer defence perimeter of the SLA's Kilinochchi garrison were killed by reconnaissance patrols of the military. A priest who went to inspect his abandoned church farm in this area was also killed by the SLA.

The meagre belongings of a family being transported back to Kilinochchi. The family is among those former residents of the town who are daily trickling back to resettle despite fear of thousands of landmines left behind by the SLA. SLA offensives drove out more than 24 thousand families from the northern town in 1996. About seven thousand have returned since the TRO began clearing mines and creating the basic conditions for human habitation in Kilinochci, Sri Lankan government officials said.

Kilinochchi secretariat sm Kilinochchi central college sm
The Kilinochchi district secretariat, destroyed by heavy bombing and shelling by the SLA and Sri Lanka Air Force. The secretariat now functions in what remains of the building. Colombo is yet to approve cement and other building materials for the reconstruction of destroyed and damaged government buildings in the Vanni region. Kilinochchi Central College (on right, please click on the images for larger photos)

kili_mine-victim.jpg kili_demining.jpg
A boy at the Akkarayan hospital who lost a leg when an anti-personnel mine left behind by the SLA exploded in his home garden in Kilinochchi. Although the de-mining unit of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) thoroughly examines each homestead in Kilinochchi for APLMs and unexploded ordnance before families are allowed to resettle, stray mines which are difficult locate because of their sophisticated make, continue to kill and maim. The TRO says it does not have the modern wherewithal to detect such mines. At least 300,000 landmines have been left behind by the SLA in Kilinochchi town and its environs, according to the TRO. Of these only about 65,000 have been removed so far from homesteads, gardens, farms, schools and marketplaces, the TRO says. A volunteer shows a APC and head quarters of mine awarness programme in Kilinochchi.(below)


Elephantpass board sm Damaged Tank sm
The shell scarred Elephant Pass signpost at the scene of one of the fiercest ground battles in recent south Asian history. The name of the LTTE's elite infantry regiment, the Jeyanthan Padaiyani, is written on the signpost. The storm troopers of this LTTE regiment were the first to fight their way into the sprawling garrison on the gateway to Jaffna. In the background are remnants of the layers of concertina fences and under water minefield markers in the Elephant Pass lagoon. Sri Lanka Army armoured vehicle that was destroyed by the Liberation Tigers at Elephant Pass. (please click on the images for larger photos)

The remains of a fortified concrete and steel structure of the Sri Lanka army amidst the shrub and creeper covered expanse where the sprawling Elephant Pass garrison once stood. It is one of the SLA fortifications in the base which were destroyed in heavy barrages by the LTTE's artillery regiment. Elephant Pass was one of the most heavily defended garrisons in South Asia, home to the Sri Lanka army's best infantry group, the 54 division. The 54 was all but wiped out by the LTTE when it overran and destroyed the garrison in April 2000.


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