The Lanka Academic

AUGUST 20, 2008 EST, USA
VOL. 9, NO. 137


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Sri Lankan troops break through rebel defenses
Associated Press, Wed August 20, 2008 12:40 EDT . RAVI NESSMAN - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) The Sri Lankan military says it has broken through the Tamil Tigers' defenses in recent weeks, ending a prolonged stalemate and stirring predictions of an imminent rebel defeat after 25 years of civil war.

Troops overran a major rebel naval base on July 16, then pushed deep into the north, capturing four more bases and entering the rebel's heartland in the Kilinochchi district for the first time in 11 years.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake speculated that troops might seize the rebels' administrative capital in the town of Kilinochchi by the end of the week.

``We are very close. Kilinochchi is not very far from our sight,'' he told a ruling party rally Monday, according to the Daily Mirror newspaper.

Few other officials publicly predicted such a swift advance, and some analysts warned the rebels might be marshaling their forces for a major counterattack, as they have done repeatedly in the past.

But even opposition leaders, who have been highly critical of the government's handling of the war, praised the recent successes.

``You really have to appreciate what the services are doing at the moment,'' said Lakshman Senewiratne, an opposition lawmaker. ``They are doing a great job, a great job I would say. Even though there are ups and downs, the achievements are great.''

The war on this Indian Ocean island nation has killed more than 70,000 people as the separatists fought for an independent state for minority Tamils in the north and east, following decades of marginalization by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority.

The rebels, listed as a terror group by the United States and European Union, have been accused of scores of suicide bombings and other attacks on civilians.

A 2002 cease-fire appeared to pave the path for peace, until fighting flared 2 1/2 years ago. The government captured the east last year, and then turned its focus to the rebels' main power base in the north.

For months, the army made only small advances into rebel-held areas, as the two sides traded fire over relatively static front lines.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said the advance was slowed when troops reached an 8-mile stretch of open land in the rice paddies of the northwestern Mannar district that left them completely exposed to rebel attacks.

Soldiers were forced to operate in the dark of night, making small advances, destroying rebel bunker lines and quickly digging fortifications of their own before sunrise left them exposed again, he said.

In June, government forces finally made it across the rice paddies and behind the rebels' heaviest fortifications, he said.

``They did not have defenses in that area ... so they could not prepare themselves to face the military threat,'' Nanayakkara said.

The offensive suddenly picked up speed, with soldiers overrunning a rebel naval base at the coastal town of Vidattaltivu used for smuggling and waging sea attacks and then racing up the coast, seizing four more bases in a thrust deep into rebel territory, he said. That operation, combined with earlier military victories, shrank the rebels' de facto state to nearly half its previous size, he said.

Tens of thousands of civilians displaced by the fighting fled deeper into government territory, aid workers and government officials said.

Repeated attempts in recent days to reach rebel spokesmen have been unsuccessful. Aid groups said the government cut off most phone service to the rebel areas, which Nanayakkara denied.

While international observers and political opponents have accused the government of vastly exaggerating victories over the rebels, many say the military's recent achievements appeared genuine. Independent verification of the government claims was not possible because journalists were barred from the war zone.

Some government officials found themselves uncharacteristically counseling patience, saying the war is far from over.

``There's some more to go, other areas to get, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu,'' Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told The Associated Press, naming the rebels' two power centers.

However, ``the troops are confident, the soldiers are confident, the army commander is confident,'' he said.

Political analyst Susantha Seneviratne, a retired colonel, warned the troops will have more difficulty advancing along the heavily mined areas to the east, and the current offensive if not over soon will bog down once the monsoon rains start in October or November.

He also feared the rebels' quick withdrawals in recent weeks were a trap to lure the troops into the jungles in the interior, where the guerrillas, who still have artillery and other heavy weapons, will launch a major counterattack.

``This silence is not good for the troops at all,'' he said.

Senewiratne, the opposition lawmaker, said the recent successes have put added pressure on the rebels, but the ethnic conflict underlying the civil war will not be resolved on the battlefield.

``Sooner or later, we have to go for a negotiated settlement,'' he said.Discuss this story
Published: Wed Aug 20 18:32:15 EDT 2008

Sri Lankan ship sinks off Bangladesh coast
Associated Press, Wed August 20, 2008 08:59 EDT . CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh (AP) _ One crew member was missing Wednesday after a rice-laden Sri Lankan cargo ship collided with another vessel and sank off Bangladesh's southeastern coast, a port official said.

Sixteen crew members were rescued.

Chittagong Port radio control center official Nurul Islam said the M.V. Badulu Valley started sinking after an empty cargo vessel rammed its side in the Bay of Bengal.

Rescuers plucked 16 crew members of the Badulu Valley from the sea, and were looking for another still missing.

The rescued crew, who are mostly from Sri Lanka and Myanmar, were recovering at a local hospital, shipping agent Saiful Ahmed said.

Authorities, meanwhile, were waiting for low tide to locate and salvage the sunken ship, which is believed to have developed a major crack in its side, Islam said.

The Badulu Valley was waiting for clearance to unload when it was hit by the Panamanian-flagged M.V. Hun Geu, which was sailing out to sea.

The Sri Lankan ship arrived in Chittagong on Sunday carrying a cargo of rice from a port in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Ahmed said.Discuss this story
Published: Wed Aug 20 10:46:09 EDT 2008 Back to the top

Sri Lanka 's president calls on voters to endorse military campaign
Associated Press, Wed August 20, 2008 05:25 EDT . - - Rajapaksa's comments came hours before campaigning for Saturday's election in two of Sri Lanka - 's nine provinces was due to end Wednesday night in keeping with local election laws.

About 2.1 million voters are eligible to vote for the provincial councils in the North Central Province, 280 kilometres north-east of Colombo, and Sabaragamuwa province, 100 kilometres south-east of the capital.

Speaking on television Tuesday night Rajapaksa told voters the government needed their ``endorsement to carry on with the military campaign.''

Rajapaksa's ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is focusing its campaign on the military's achievements who recaptured rebel-held areas in the east and are now advancing in the northern province, claiming they were to end Tamil terrorism by the end of the year.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake said Monday the army could take a key rebel stronghold before the elections and called for public support.

But the main opposition United National Party (UNP) which, when in office, was instrumental in introducing a Norwegian-backed cease-fire in 2002, criticized the government for misusing the military achievements for political purposes.

``We do not want to see the government setting military targets for political purposes'', UNP's chief candidate for the North Central Province Janaka Perera said.

As the campaigning ends, at least 127 poll-related complaints have been lodged by various political parties, election monitoring groups said. Among the incidents reported were shootings, setting fire to vehicles, intimidating voters and damaging party offices.

President Rajapaksa is set to hold elections in six provinces soon. The UFPA won the polls the polls in the eastern province which were held in May. dpa ad im pwDiscuss this story
Published: Wed Aug 20 07:29:53 EDT 2008 Back to the top

Sri Lanka army claims 29 rebels killed, 35 wounded in north
Associated Press, Wed August 20, 2008 04:22 EDT . - - Colombo (dpa) - At least 29 Tamil rebels were killed and 35 others were wounded in combat by government troops in northern Sri Lanka - as security forces advanced into rebel-held areas, a military spokesman said Wednesday... Back to the top

Sri Lanka Keeps Key Interest Rate Unchanged at 10.5%
bloomberg, august 20. Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka's central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged for an 18th straight meeting after inflation eased for the first time in seven months. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka held its repurchase rate at 10.5 percent, the Colombo-based bank said in a statement today... Back to the top

Tamil Tigers tacitly admit losing ground to Sri Lankan govt, august 19. COLOMBO (AFP) Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels Tuesday tacitly admitted they were losing ground in the face of a major military offensive by warning that thousands of civilians in the north were at risk... Back to the top

India wins 2nd one-day match by three wickets
Associated Press, Wed August 20, 2008 07:56 EDT . DAMBULLA, Sri Lanka - (AP) India won the second one-day international by three wickets Wednesday to level the five-match series 1-1 after dismissing Sri Lanka - for its lowest home score against the visitors... Back to the top

Sri Lanka PM says troops near rebel headquarters, 2008-08-19 21:47:40. COLOMBO, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake has said that the government troops are nearing the Tamil Tiger headquarters located in the island's north. Addressing an election rally on Tuesday in the southeastern Sabaragamuva province's Kuruwita area, Wickramanayake said, "My friends, our forces would soon take Kilinochchi, although I can't predict a date, it could happen soon"... Back to the top

Sri Lankan military says 21 rebels killed
Associated Press, Tue August 19, 2008 07:12 EDT . COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Scattered battles between the government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels across Sri Lanka - 's embattled northern region killed 21 rebels, the military said Tuesday... Back to the top

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