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‘Earth bunds won’t save Kilinochchi’

The SLAF Saturday afternoon attacked LTTE cadres engaged in building an earth bund about 4.5 kilometres north-east of Akkarayankulam tank bund.

A pair of Mi-24 helicopter gunships zeroed-in on the target at 1.30 p. m. shortly after the 57 Division pushing towards the A 9 road reported the deployment of heavy machinery for the building of an earth bund.

The army regained the southern edge of the Akkarayankulam tank situated about 12 kilometres south-west of Kilinochchi town centre by August 22.

SLAF spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said that one excavator and one bulldozer had been deployed at the time of the air strike. Faced with a severe shortage of arms, ammunition and fresh recruits, the LTTE had build earth bunds both east and west of the A9 to impede the ongoing ground operations, he told The Island yesterday.

Earlier in the day (October 11), Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka visited Vanni Security Forces headquarters to review the overall situation on the Vanni front. Fonseka said that the army in the first week of this month pierced the Akkarayankulam earth bund to reach the outskirts of Kilinochchi town. Speaking to The Island after his previous visit to Vanni Security Forces on October 3, Fonseka said the earth bund that stretches several kilometres west of Akkarayankulam across the Kilinochchi district wouldn’t deter the army.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that the rapid construction of earth bunds both east and west of the A9 wouldn’t have been possible without the deployment of earth moving machinery. He told The Island that earth moving machinery belonging to the Norwegian People’s Aid had ended up in the hands of the LTTE. There was absolutely no doubt that the machinery had been used to strengthen their defences. Rajapaksa said that the conduct of the NPA, too, strengthened his resolve to shift all INGOs, including UN agencies out of LTTE-held territory. In fact, the NPA, which was involved in mine clearing operations should have been asked to quit the area a long time ago, he said.

The NPA recently admitted that it could not retrieve three excavators when it pulled out of the LTTE-held area. Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told The Island that the NPA had assured the government that the three excavators had been made non-operational before the INGO quit Kilinochchi, while two of its vehicles had been held by the Humanitarian de-mining unit, an LTTE front while another had been left by the side of the A9 due to a mechanical defect.

Petter Eide, Secretary General of NPA, in a letter dated August 27 to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, while condemning the first reported seizure of several vehicles in August acknowledged the seriousness of the situation. "…NPA recognises that our security measures weren’t effective in preventing the removal of vehicles and equipment. We acknowledge the serious security implications this has had in Sri Lanka." Eide said that the LTTE’s action prompt the armed forces to target vehicles belonging to all humanitarian agencies, thereby jeopardising relief work.

Sri Lanka’s decision to suspend INGO/UN agencies in LTTE-held territory came close on the heels of Petter Eide’s visit to Colombo to reassure his commitment to humanitarian work.

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