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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withdrawn to South of Elephant Pass but that such a move will not seriously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
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
Government officials told this this reporter that the President is expected
to arrive in Sri Lanka given the serious situation at Elephant Pass.