COLOMBO, Feb. 6, Reuter: India is to boost its troop strength in Sri Lanka to about 70,000 in an attempt to crush stubborn resistance by Tamil rebels, Sri Lankan government officials said on Saturday.

The officials said 15,000 additional troops are due to arrive.

Two Indian army brigades are expected before February 10 and a third by end of the month, they said. That would increase the number of brigades in the island to 15.

The reinforcements would be deployed in the eastern district of Trincomalee and in the Vanni jungles of the north comprising Vavuniya, Mannar and Mullaitive districts.

“The influx of more troops is to finish the job against the terrorists as soon as possible”, a defense ministry official said.

Indian military officials here said transport planes arrived at Batticaloa in the east on Friday, some of them capable of carrying between 400 to 500 soldiers.

A foreign ministry spokesman in New Delhi said: “We have moved additional troops into Batticaloa but I am not going to go into operational details about whether there were eight or 15 planeloads”,

Sri Lankan officials said Indian soldiers in Batticaloa have been pursuing rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who have switched their campaign for a separatist state from the Northern provinces to the east.

An Indian peacekeeping force was sent to the island’s northern and eastern provinces in July when both countries signed a pact to end four years of Tamil separatist war in Sri Lanka.

Military officials said the Tigers had regrouped in Batticaloa after their northern stronghold of Jaffna was wrested from them by Indian soldiers in a major offensive last October.

There are now five Indian brigades in the Jaffna peninsula.

The guerrillas in Batticloa have staged ambushes on Indian soldiers, called on government workers not to report for work and told businessmen not to open their shops.

Civil administration in Batticaloa and in other eastern and northern areas has been crippled for the past three weeks by the rebels’ disobedience campaign.

Article extracted from this publication >> February 12, 1988