Troops advance rapidly on Welioya front : Fonseka

A confident army chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka yesterday said his troops on the Welioya front were making rapid progress.

The 59 Division on the offensive on the Vanni East had been able to gradually turn the battle to its advantage after a series of major engagements in the general area north of Janakapura, Fonseka said.

"We have advanced almost seven kilometres into the enemy-held territory," he told The Sunday Island, expressing confidence the army could sustain the existing pressure on the LTTE.

Fielding questions, he dismissed the perception that the 59 Division was on the offensive on a thin front. "The Welioya front in 14 kilometres wide and we have enough men and material to push ahead despite resistance," he said.

Contrary to reports, the jungle terrain had been to the army’s advantage and the 59 Division had skilfully overwhelmed the enemy formations which included some of their best fighting units.

Fonseka said the enemy had cleared some jungle areas ahead of the army front line on the Welioya front as they believed it would be advantageous to confront the army in the open.

The army chief asserted LTTE losses on the Welioya front would invariably facilitate army offensive action on the Mannar and Vavuniya fronts. The gradual collapse of defences on the Welioya front would weaken their resolve to resist the army advance on Vavuniya and Mannar fronts, he said.

According to him, the 57 Division on the Vavuniya front had advanced 25 kilometres north of their original defences. The Task Force 1 on the Mannar front had brought a large area under government control.

He acknowledged the LTTE had exploited the Mannar terrain to its advantage. The open territory had been to their advantage as they had been able maximize the use of artillery and long range mortars, he said, expressing confidence in thwarting any LTTE offensive aimed at reversing the ground situation.

Fonseka said the newly raised 61 Division and Task Force 11 would increase pressure on the LTTE on the Vanni front. "We have enough men and material and reserves to finish off the enemy,’’ he said.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake Thursday said in Parliament that 138 security forces and police personnel had been killed and 540 wounded in May.

Fonseka said the enemy’s days were numbered. The enemy no longer had the wherewithal to roll back the army. The next few months would hasten the collapse of resistance.

The attempt by civilians to reach government areas in the Vanni, he said was evidence of the gradual collapse the LTTE hold on the population.

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