Sunday, September 23, 2007

Under fire Sri Lanka offers olive branch to Tamil Tigers

Sri Lankan security forces at Silavattura, an area captured from Tamil Tiger guerrillas. Sri Lanka offered to halt major military operations against Tamil separatists in exchange for peace talks following intense international censure.

Sri Lanka offered Sunday to halt major military operations against Tamil separatists in exchange for peace talks following intense international censure.

The military will not press ahead with a ground offensive if the Tigers agree to talk, Defence Ministry secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse told a newspaper.

The country's top defence official said it was now up to the Tigers to decide if the military should keep up the offensive and urged them to resume peace negotiations which collapsed in October last year.

"The decision (of war or peace) is theirs and I believe they wouldn't reject this opportunity," Rajapakse told the Sunday Island. "We'll not take advantage of the ground situation," if the Tigers agree to negotiate.

Rajapakse, who is also the president's younger brother, made the comments after the island's key international backers led by the United States warned Colombo against pressing ahead with a military drive.

The surprise olive branch came just days after the defence secretary had vowed to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Rajapakse had on Monday called for stepped up military action to finish off the rebels, which prompted the US ambassador to Sri Lanka to warn there was no military solution to long-running separatist conflict.

Ambassador Robert Blake's remarks came as the Sri Lankan government battled to avoid formal censure at the United Nations Human Rights Council which is reviewing the island's deteriorating rights record in Geneva.

Diplomats said Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse could also face tough questioning during his current visit to New York to address the UN general assembly.

The LTTE has been fighting for a separate state since 1972. More than 5,400 people have been killed in a new wave of fighting since December 2005, when a Norwegian-brokered truce began to unravel.


LTTE's Vishwamadu base hit hard

Sri lanka air force (SLAF) fighter jets carried out consecutive air strikes on LTTE's Vishwamadhu base yesterday (21st) and today (22nd). Initial bombing run was performed at 12.15pm yesterday and the base was hit again by SLAF bombers today at around 7.00 am. The second air strike targeted the LTTE cadres who were engaged in recovering usable items from areas targeted in the first raid. As with most air strikes, LTTE casualty details cannot be confirmed as of now.

Vishwamadhu base was frequently used by LTTE's Imran regiment. Several of their ammunition and fuel dumps were said to be located inside the base premises. UAV footage shows secondary explosions after the initial bombing run which suggest that at least one of the ammo or fuel dumps was hit.

Imran-Pandiyan is regarded as one of the most powerful fighting formations within the LTTE. This unit, along with Charles Anthony brigade, has not been used in any major battle since the 2002 CFA. The tigers seem to be keeping their two most experienced brigades in reserve. LTTE is most likely to use these brigades to defend Wanni from a possible army invasion but the possibility of these units being deployed in a major LTTE offensive to recapture Jaffna peninsula cannot be overruled either.