Government wants ICRC back at Omanthai

The military expresses confidence the ICRC will return to the Omanthai entry/exit point to facilitate the movement of civilians.

The ICRC functions as a neutral intermediary to facilitate the movement of civilians to and from the LTTE-held territory and supplies to people living in areas under the LTTE control.

Security Forces Commander (Vanni) Major General Jagath Jayasuriya said the ICRC had withdrawn on July 1. Despite their absence, the army had allowed ambulances carrying 18 seriously ill patients from the LTTE-held territory to reach Vavuniya and Anuradhapura hospitals on humanitarian grounds, he told The Island, yesterday.

Although the ICRC quit the post, its representatives had been present when the army allowed 15 patients to come in. Three patients had been allowed in without the ICRC presence.

ICRC spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne said they would return as soon as the security in the area for civilians was assured by the authorities.

The ICRC officials withdrew from the Omanthai crossing point in May 2007 again as a result of threats to civilians and ICRC personnel.

The ICRC had vacated the post shortly after SLAF jets pounded what Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara called an LTTE's gathering place about four kilometers north of the entry/exit point in Vavuniya this afternoon, July 01.

The SLAF spokesperson said the attack had been ordered after aerial surveillance had clearly established the LTTE’s presence. "There were some vehicles," he said, asserting the targeted group was probably on its way to the Weli Oya front.

Major General Jayasuriya said troops on the Vanni fronts were making rapid progress with the 57 Division’s fighting elements operating about 37 kilometers north of Paraiyanakulam on the Medawachchiya-Mannar main road.

He said the 57 Division was spearheading the advance into the western part of the Vanni under LTTE control. The Task Force 1 is deployed west of the 57 Division and Task Force 11 to the east with the 61 Division taking over the area previously held by the 57 Division.

With the army poised to strike Vidattaltivu, the LTTE was believed to have begun transferring some of their equipment further northwards, he said, asserting the enemy would give up more areas on the Vanni front. But resistance remained high on the Weli Oya front, where the 59 Division had been making gradual progress.

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