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New Year festivities although LTTE likely to take ‘soft’ targets

Contrary to reports, the government hasn’t restricted propaganda events as well as Sinhala and Hindu New Year celebrations due to looming threat posed by the LTTE although the authorities are alive to the fact that with the imminent final collapse of its conventional fighting capacity, the LTTE is likely to try to grab headlines with some devastating attacks on ‘soft’ targets.

Close on the heels of suicide bomb attack on Meelad-Un-Nabi celebrations at Godapitiya, Akuressa on March 10 targeting a group of ministers, the government has warned that the LTTE would target New Year celebrations.

"Faced with a humiliating battlefield defeat, the LTTE would go for soft targets,’’ an authoritative governmental source said.

Security sources said that government politicians had organized a series of events in the provinces over the next few days and large gathering were vulnerable to attacks.

There was every possibility of the Tigers taking on soft targets as military pressure intensifies on the `no fire’ zone on the Mullaitivu coast where the remaining LTTE leadership is trapped.

They acknowledged that police and security forces would find it extremely difficult to thwart suicide attacks targeting large gatherings but unfortunately, organizers of New Year celebrations had turned a blind eye to the LTTE threat, the sources said.

The Uva Provincial Council will go ahead with Wasantha Udanaya 2009 in Bandarawela. The six-day event scheduled to begin on April 17 is expected to be attended by several politicians including Uva Chief Minister Vijithamuni Soysa.

Vocational Training Minister Piyasena Gamage has organised Kokila Wasanthaya in the Southern Province.

Last April, an LTTE suicide bomber blew up over a dozen persons including Chief Governement Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle at the start of a marathon organized at Weliweriya.

Meanwhile, the army was engaged in operations to help civilians flee the `no fire’ zone, military sources said. The 58 Division troops operating close to the NFZ had engaged LTTE positions thereby paving the way for civilians to reach the government-held area.

On Friday, 58 Division troops recovered bodies of nine LTTE cadres along with 22 T-56 assault rifles, one rocket propelled grenade launcher, one pistol, three radio communication sets, and a stock of 25,000 rounds of T-56 ammunition, the sources said.

Army snipers deployed in the forward areas had shot dead 15-armed LTTE cadres.

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