Stand-off resolved:
LTTE cadres exchanged for soldier and policeman

by Kesara Abeywardena


The stand-off between the Navy and seven armed LTTE cadres in Kuchchuveli - Thiriyaya road was solved with the intervention of the SLMM after striking a deal to exchange a police constable and a soldier held by the LTTE for the seven armed cadres who entered the government controlled area on Sunday, military sources said.

Although the Navy had released the seven LTTE cadres after negotiations involving the SLMM late last night the soldier and the police constable were not released by the LTTE till noon yesterday. The LTTE had asked for the release of their seven cadres in exchange of a police constable and a soldier when the Navy had refused to budge since it was a clear violation of the ceasefire MoU for the LTTE to have moved into government controlled areas armed. The Navy had released the cadres on the intervention of the SLMM around 9 p.m.

The soldier was taken into LTTE custody when he accidentally crossed the forward defence line in Welioya. The police constable was seized by the LTTE on February 20 when he went beyond the army checkpoint in Muhamalai into Tiger territory unaware that the bus he was travelling in had crossed the forward defence line.

The latest episode began when troops rounded up a group of armed Tigers when they were checking vehicles in the Kuchchuveli - Thiriyaya road on Sunday. Navy ground troops had moved in immediately after they were informed that armed LTTE cadres were operating in the government administered area.

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission was informed after the Tiger cadres refused to surrender to the LTTE. Navy sources said that the Tigers had threatened to commit suicide.

Deputy head of the SLMM Hagrup Haukland said last night that the SLMM had urged both parties to exercise flexibility and withdraw the ‘personnel’ from the disputed area. SLMM representatives also moved into the scene and were negotiating between the two parties.

The Navy had also been in consultation with Navy Commander Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri who was on a visit to Jaffna on Sunday. A senior military officer said that the area where the incident took place was under government control, although the LTTE had disputed that it was under its control.