The Lanka Academic

VOL. 1, NO. 19

Today's Feature

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"Tactical withdrawal" from EP.

Roy Denish, Colombo. Army commander says his troops made a "tactical withdrawal" from EP. Army commander Lieutenant General Srilal Weerasooriya told a crowded news conference that his troops made a "tactical withdrawal" from Elephant Pass complex and were consolidating their positions at a village named Sooranpattu.

The army commander told the hastily arranged news conference that in the battle at Elephant Pass 88 soldiers including eight officers were killed and over 400 wounded.

"In a war there are up and downs, but we will not let the LTTE to take over Jaffna", he said when questioned.

"We left Elephant Pass to re-adjust our defences", he added. He claimed that in the battle at least 368 LTTE cadres were killed and a large number wounded. "The decision to withdraw was taken by me, this was done to safe guard the troops and to prevent attacks on Jaffna", Weerassoriya who was accompanied by his Chief-of-Staff Major General Lionel Balagalle said.

He refuted the claims by the International media, which stated that at least 1,000 troops were killed in the battle at Elephant Pass. To a question posed whether large amount of military hardware was seized by the LTTE, Weerasooriya said that army lost one 152mm artillery gun and other heavy machine guns were destroyed by the troops just before they withdrew.

ICRC says no requests made to hand over dead bodies

Frederica Jansz, Colombo, 2.45 p.m SLT Monday April 24. The LTTE meanwhile announced from its London office Sunday April 23, that the Tiger flag has been raised at Elephant Pass as government security forces suffered a devastating loss Saturday, April 22. The LTTE claims that both civilians and rebel forces are at present involved in clearing the areas in and around Elephant Pass and Iyakachi.

The military meanwhile today made an official announcement that troops have withdrawn to South of Elephant Pass but that such a move will not seriously hinder the military's control over the Northern Peninsula.

The United National Party (UNP) meanwhile will request Speaker K B Ratnayake to summon a party leaders meeting to have an urgent debate in Parliament regarding the present security situation in the North. Chief Oppostition Whip W J M Lokubandara was quoted as saying, "the Government should not eyewash the people about what's going on in the North. We have a right to know what's happening."

The military censorship continues making independent verification of events not possible. Official statistics released by the State claim that 72 soldiers were killed and 422 injured in the battle between the LTTE and troops for Elephant Pass. They claim 150 Tigers were also killed. The LTTE claim that not more than 35 rebels were killed in the battle.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge currently in Britain for a medical check-up is likely to return to Sri Lankan in view of the deteriorating military situation.

LTTE Gives list of Weapons haul from Elephant Pass

Frederica Jansz, Colombo, 3.15 p.m. SLT Monday April 24. The LTTE today released a list of the weapons gathered after the battle of Elephant Pass. The Tigers claim that rebels troops captured "Three long-range 152 MM artillery pieces are the significant gain in the booty. Two 122MM artillery pieces and twelve 120MM heavy mortars, one 25MM canon, several 50 caliber guns, hundreds of rocket propelled grenades, thousands of automatic rifles and a vast quantity of ammunition including artillery and mortar shells.

The LTTE claim the rebels also captured several armored vehicles, tanks, military trucks, bulldozers and high-tech communication systems.

Sri Lankan army commander holds a news conference.

Roy Denish, Colombo. Army commander Lieutenant General Srilal Weerasooriya is expected to hold a news conference local time 1900 hours to brief the media on the situation at Elephant Pass.

On Sunday night, the government admitted that its troops had vacated Elephant Pass military complex but did not give details. The admission came after, the official arm of the Sri Lankan military, the Operational Headquarters said that 74 soldiers were killed and further 400 wounded in action in the rebels attacks on Saturday.

But military observers in Colombo pointed out that figures may be higher since there were more than 17,000 troops at military camps located on the gateway of Jaffna.

They further pointed that the government was not willing to release the figures of the casualties since it would hurt the government's chances of being re-elected at the general elections which is expected to be held in September this year.

Meanwhile, a Tamil newspaper The Vireakesari quoting government officials said that President Chandrika Kumaratunge is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka cutting short her visit. But the newspapers did not give further details.

Government officials told this this reporter that the President is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka given the serious situation at Elephant Pass.

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