CLOMBO, Jan. 9, Reuter: Sri Lankan troops today cleared guerrillas out of 1,000 yard (meter) perimeter around a military base used for operations against Tamil rebels in the country’s northernmost city of Jaffna.
The action was the latest sign of a stepped up struggle for control of the town, center of fighting in which 11 people have died and 25 wounded in the past three days. A government spokesman told Reuters three strategic positions possibly used for rebel mortar attacks within the 1,000 meter zone had been occupied and strengthened.
Backed by air cover, soldiers came out of the base, a Dutch built fort on Wednesday to take control of a telecommunications center and two other abandoned buildings used by rebels for mortar attacks. It was the first time the soldiers had left the base since last May.
National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali told Parliament yesterday the military had to thwart plans by the main rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to take over running of the town.
The death toll rose to 11 last night when three civilians were killed and 13 more injured in Jaffna. Six rebels and two civilians were killed while 12 others were wounded on Wednesday. The mil itary said it suffered no casualties. Athulathmudali said the military operation in Jaffna showed “our determination that where action needs to be taken, the government is determined to take that action”.
However, he said it did not indicate any backing away from Sri Lanka’s commitment to a negotiated solution of its ethnic conflict involving minority Tamils demands for self-rule in northern parts of the country.
The LTTE, in the forefront of the three-year separatist war that has killed some 4,500 people, has rejected Sri Lanka’s peace plain to SP autonomous provincial councils.
Article extracted from this publication >> January 16, 1987