NEW DELHI, India, Feb. 13, Reuter: India’s troops in Sri Lanka captured three rebel leaders in the eastern town of Batticaloa on Saturday and reported that resistance by Tamil Tigers ‘was waning, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said.

In contrast to the fierce fighting in the rebels’ stronghold of Jaffna late last year, said the spokesman, “there is no concerted or organized resistance in the East”.

He said the Indian peacekeeping force was engaging the rebels wherever they were found with ground forces and helicopter gunships but had encountered only isolated fire and had taken no causalities.

The Indians, sent in to enforce last July’s Indo Sri Lankan accord aimed at ending the four year Tamil separatist rebellion, on Thursday began search operations in an around Batticaloa.

The spokesman said every house was being screened to find active militants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The search had turned up three senior Tiger leaders in the past 24 hours, he said, naming them as Joseph Kingsley alias Neeranjan, Punathatirai alias Vijayan and Ratnaya Narendra Kumar.

But Tamil sources contacted in Batticoloa from Colombo told Reuters the names were new to them and they were not sure how important the three were.

The search was still going on for the Tigers’ elusive leader, Velupil Jai Prabhakaran, who is believed to be hiding in the northern pro Vince.

As a result of the current operation, said the spokesman, “We are confident we will be able to create conditions for a free and fair election (to a regional council for the Tamil dominated north and east)”.

The only obstacle was the “violence, sabotage and intimidation” practiced by the Tigers, he said.

“It remains to be seen whether (they) have the moral and political courage to lay down their arms and face the people in an election rather than with coercion”, said the Indian spokesman.

Article extracted from this publication >> February 19, 1988