Refugee influx floods Sri Lanka's Kantalai 2006-08-05 17:42:08

Special Report: Ceasefire over in Sri Lanka

    COLOMBO, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- Around 15,000 refugees displaced due to fighting between the Tamil Tigers and the government troops in Sri Lanka's eastern province were gathered in Kantalai, 218 kmsfrom here, the government relief officials said Saturday.

    The refugees fled from Muttur, a Muslim dominated town south of the eastern port city of Trincomalee on Friday as fighting between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels and the government troops intensified.

    "The people displaced are living in schools, mosques and Buddhist temples, some temporary huts are also being put up", W.D.Sirisena, a local aid worker, said over the telephone.

    "They came in lorries, tractors and even carts", Sirisena added.

    Kantalai, 80 kms from Muttur, is a majority Sinhala dominated town in the area and the Muslims who fled Muttur felt safe to be there.

    The aid workers, however, said that facilities for the refugees were barely adequate and the authorities are faced with a severe crisis.

    Meanwhile the government said Saturday that fighting in Muttur had receded and the government troops were in full control.

    Brigadier Athula Jayawardena, the Director Operations of the Army, said "The LTTErs have retreated after suffering heavily and Muttur is fully under troops control.

    The military said that some 152 rebels were killed when they attempted to attack the Muttur jetty on Friday.

    The Tamil press sources here quoted S. Elilan, the Trincomalee district's LTTE political wing leader as saying that the rebel organization had withdrawn from Muttur Saturday morning having completed a limited operation in the Muslim dominated town.

    Since Wednesday, when the LTTE decided to launch a surprise attack on Muttur it was not clear until Saturday who was controlling the town.

    The military blamed the LTTE of infiltrating into Muttur town disguised as civilians and using the local population as a human shield to attack the troops.

    The LTTE did not allow the Army to enter Muttur town in large numbers, even an elite special forces unit of the Army found it difficult with mortar and artillery fire which rained on them from the nearby LTTE controlled Sampur area.

    Although no credible casualty figures are available over 200 are believed to have been killed by the fighting.

    The attack on Muttur came a day after the LTTE attacked a Sri Lankan troop carrier vessel in the port of Trincomalee and in the backdrop of the Army's advance into the rebel-held Verugal Aru area in the eastern province since last Sunday.

    The first open Army advance into rebel-held territory since the February 2002 ceasefire was aimed at opening up an irrigation sluice gate shut down by the rebels since 20 July.

    The latest clashes between the two sides are the worst since the Norwegian backed peace process got underway. More than 64,000 people were killed in the armed separatist conflict since the mid 1980s until February 2002. Enditem

Editor: Liu Dan
E-mail Us  
Related Stories
Sri Lanka says ready for truce
Thousands flee Sri Lanka battle zone
UN chief concerned about mounting violence in Sri Lanka
Fierce fighting claims over 40 Tiger rebels in Muttur, Sri Lanka