Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Civilians at the mercy of the Tigers

After continuously harassing Security Forces' detachments at Kadjuwatta and Mankerni in Batticaloa and Mavil Aru and Mahindapura in Trincomalee with sporadic artillery shelling and mortar fire since last week, tigers intensified their attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday compelling the Security Forces to retaliate to counter further enemy shelling and mortar fire. Five soldiers were injured during intense artillery shelling yesterday morning by the tigers.

The tigers initiated these sporadic attacks from Vakarai and Kadiraweli towards Security Forces detachments while forcibly retaining thousands of civilians as a human shield.

One of the civilians who crossed over to the Government controlled area from tiger held Vakarai was quoted by BBC as saying "The tigers were placing restrictions on who was allowed to go to government-controlled area. They feared that once civilians left Vakarai, the military could attack the region without any restrictions. Many Tamil civilians had to beg, cajole and cry to get permission from the rebels. At last, aid started trickling in and the situation got somewhat better. I was among the lucky ones to cross over to government-controlled town of Batticaloa. At least, I have a shade above my head, I get some food and more importantly, I feel safe. But I am worried about my relatives who are still caught up in Vakarai area"

Yesterday around 7.15 a.m. the tigers directed artillery and mortar fire towards the Mahindapura Army camp and the village. According to the Field Commanders, the Mortar Locating Radar was switched on and Security Forces' observation points located the tiger gun positions at 2 kilometers North West of Kadiraweli jungle area. Vital information received by the Mortar Locating Radars was fed to the Field Commanders but they did not retaliate as they needed confirmation from the radar.

Ground Commanders who positioned observation points in the vicinity gave specific instructions to troops to precisely identify the tiger gun positions if they fire again. Two guns around 11.25 a.m. fired from the same location where they fired earlier from in the morning. Troops didn't suffer injuries since they were under cover expecting the attack. Radars were operational at that time and it confirmed the target position said Field Commanders.

According to filed commanders, Security Forces' artillery guns countered tiger bombardment following confirmation from the radar and reconfirmation from the observation points which were in the vicinity of tiger gun positions.

Two MBRL salvos and 130 mm artillery guns of the Security Forces engaged the target. Security Forces believe that the LTTE had relocated their gun positions closer to the civilian settlements which the Security Forces never expected.

According to ICRC sources 23 civilians have been killed and 125 injured in the exchange of artillery and mortar fire between the Security Forces and the LTTE in the Vakarai area.

Security Forces are taking all possible measures to treat casualties and safeguard civilians in the area.