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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sri Lankan troops wary of civilian casualties

FROM THE WAR ZONE: The Sri Lankan troops were exercising maximum restraint to avoid any civilian casualties, General Officer in-charge of 58 Division, Shavendra de Silva told The Hindu at the front on Wednesday.

“We are proceeding with extreme caution. With the humanitarian operations reaching a final stage, we believe that the LTTE would be left with no option but to let the civilians out of its grip. Our focus at the moment is on innocent citizens held hostage by the Tigers. We would target the Tiger cadres and leaders only after all the civilians are evacuated from the NSZ.”

Brig. Shavendra de Silva categorically refuted charges of shelling by the military inside the NSZ. “We have documentary evidence to prove that at least on three occasions the Tigers fired artillery within the NSZ. We are ready to share the same with the international community.”

The Brigadier said the military was also in possession of evidence to show the LTTE was destroying permanent buildings in the NSZ and setting on fire vehicles filled with properties of the civilians. “The obvious game plan of the LTTE is to put the blame on the military. Their days are numbered.”

A Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) used by the LTTE was found by troops of 58 Division conducting a search and clearing operation in Karyalaimullivaikkal on Wednesday morning.

“This is the first time the security forces in the Wanni liberation offensive uncovered an MBRL,” a senior military official said. Troops of 11 Sri Lanka Artillery serving under 57 Division uncovered LTTE aircraft engine and a few accessories in a search operation conducted in Thevipuram.

ICRC, the only international organisation operating inside the war zone, said an employee was killed near Mullivaikal, in the coastal area held by the LTTE.

“This is the third time in just over two months that an ICRC employee has been killed inside the conflict zone,” Paul Castella, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Colombo said. “This latest tragic incident shows how dangerous it is for everyone in the area.”

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