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Archive for July 1st, 2008

A Sri Lankan air force helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing Tuesday in eastern Sri Lanka after being hit by suspected rebel fire, military officials said.

The helicopter was one of the two that escorted a third helicopter that was carrying President Mahinda Rajapaksa helicopter earlier in the day during an official visit to the area.

The helicopter was struck in Ampara district, 360 kilometres east of the capital, on Tuesday afternoon as it was heading to a nearby airbase for refueling after the president arrived at his destination safely.

Air force spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara confirmed that the helicopter had been hit by surface-based fire, but did not say whether rebels were responsible.

Rajapaksa was at a ceremony to open a bridge built with US government assistance in Arugambay when the helicopter was hit. He flew flew back to Colombo later in the day.

The Sri Lankan government has declared that the eastern province has been recaptured from the rebels, but journalists in the area say that small groups of rebels still operate in the area.

The military is currently carrying out operations in the northern province to clear rebel held areas.

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A Sri Lankan air force helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing Tuesday in eastern Sri Lanka after being hit by suspected rebel fire, military officials said.

The helicopter was one of the two that escorted a third helicopter that was carrying President Mahinda Rajapaksa helicopter earlier in the day during an official visit to the area.

The helicopter was struck in Ampara district, 360 kilometres east of the capital, on Tuesday afternoon as it was heading to a nearby airbase for refueling after the president arrived at his destination safely.

Air force spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara confirmed that the helicopter had been hit by surface-based fire, but did not say whether rebels were responsible.

Rajapaksa was at a ceremony to open a bridge built with US government assistance in Arugambay when the helicopter was hit. He flew flew back to Colombo later in the day.

The Sri Lankan government has declared that the eastern province has been recaptured from the rebels, but journalists in the area say that small groups of rebels still operate in the area.

The military is currently carrying out operations in the northern province to clear rebel held areas.

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A Sri Lankan air force helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing Tuesday in eastern Sri Lanka after being hit by suspected rebel fire, military officials said.

The helicopter was one of the two that escorted a third helicopter that was carrying President Mahinda Rajapaksa helicopter earlier in the day during an official visit to the area.

The helicopter was struck in Ampara district, 360 kilometres east of the capital, on Tuesday afternoon as it was heading to a nearby airbase for refueling after the president arrived at his destination safely.

Air force spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara confirmed that the helicopter had been hit by surface-based fire, but did not say whether rebels were responsible.

Rajapaksa was at a ceremony to open a bridge built with US government assistance in Arugambay when the helicopter was hit. He flew flew back to Colombo later in the day.

The Sri Lankan government has declared that the eastern province has been recaptured from the rebels, but journalists in the area say that small groups of rebels still operate in the area.

The military is currently carrying out operations in the northern province to clear rebel held areas.

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Sri Lanka’s army chief says the Tamil Tigers have been almost ‘defeated’ and will be relegated to ‘low-level’ insurgents within a year.

“Maybe a maximum of one year from now onwards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) should lose large areas,” claimed the head of the Sri Lankan army, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka.

Following that, the population would break free from their reign, the military official noted, saying from then on they would be only be capable of ‘low-level insurgency’.

Owing to the blows the insurgents have been dealt at the hands of the Sri Lankan military, the general noted, the national forces could far more easily penetrate into the rebel strongholds in the northern parts of the country.

“Earlier, we couldn’t move one kilometer for two, three months. That type of resistance is not there any more , we have already defeated them … they have lost its conventional capability, he added.

Fonseka maintained that as a result of deterioration of their firepower, the rebels had now settled for hit-and-run attacks.

The Tigers have been fighting to wrest control of the island and remove the majority Sinhalese community there.

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July 1, 2008: The army believes it has killed about 4,500 LTTE rebels during the first six months of the year, while losing about one tenth that number. In the last three years, since the fighting resumed, over 10,000 people have died (plus another 60,000 between 1983-2002). Since the army went on the offensive two years ago, they have lost about 1,700 dead and 4,000 wounded. The army believes they have killed or captured some 9,000 LTTE fighters in that period. Some of those captured were actually deserters, who are a good source of info on what is happening in LTTE territory.

The generals now believe the LTTE is in a death spiral, but still capable to doing a lot of damage if the army gets sloppy. The LTTE maintain a reserve of a hundred or more suicide bombers, plus several hundred trained and loyal commandos.  So the deliberate, carefully planned attacks on LTTE bunkers continues, capturing a few square kilometers of LTTE territory a week. In this way, the army now believes it will take about a year to recapture all the LTTE controlled territory in the north and shatter (but not totally destroy) the LTTE. The government assumes that the LTTE will continue as a terrorist organization, trying to maintain bases among radical Tamils living in southern India (where Tamils have lived for thousands of years).

Because the rebels have ruled these northern  areas of Sri Lanka for some two decades, they are well organized to defend it. But more and more of the civilians living there (about 400,000 Tamils) are sneaking away, and into government controlled territory. Apparently the LTTE has mobilized everyone and everything for what appears to be a “last stand.” Most of the Tamils in the north don’t want to be part of that, but opposing the LTTE can get you killed. So those who can, are fleeing. Because of this aggressive recruiting (usually, men and women are just conscripted), the LTTE still have about 5,000 people under arms. But most are poorly trained, led largely via threats to themselves and their families and suffering from low morale. There is little ammo, because of the navy blockade and the destruction of most of the LTTE boats. The government artillery and air force are finding more targets, thanks to the interrogation of captured or deserted LTTE fighters, and the long range army patrols inside LTTE territory.

By containing the LTTE to a small portion of the northern coast, the rest of the country has prospered. GDP was up 6.8 percent last year, and is headed for a seven percent increase this year.

June 23, 2008: After months of effort, the government finally got the LTTE television channel, Tharisanam Television, taken off a European satellite. The government expects the propaganda and funding raising program to show up via another satellite. There are so many satellite channels out there, and so many of them specializing in ethnic programming, that it’s difficult to let everyone know that outfits like Tharisanam Television are just there to support, and raise money for, a bunch of terrorists.

(Strategy Page)

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The Supreme Court yesterday cautioned that any officer found guilty of violating court directions when carrying out search operations would be held accountable.

Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva made this comment when a fundamental rights violation petition was filed alleging that directions given by the court were not being carried out during search operations.

The Chief Justice said according to the UN Convention to which Sri Lanka was a signatory maintaining privacy of individuals was fundamental and cautioned that those responsible for such abuses would have to pay dearly.

The fundamental rights violation petition filed by the CWC against the discriminate arrest of Tamils was taken up before the Bench comprising Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, Justices N.G.Amaratunga and K.Sripavan.

Counsel M.A.Sumanthiran appearing for the CWC brought to the notice of the court that last Saturday there had been a search operation in the Wellawatte area and people were detained for long periods. He alleged that CID officers had asked for the details of Bank account numbers and had given them forms printed only in Sinhala.

He told court that people had to wait at the police station for hours and were being asked to obtain Grama Sevaka Certificates for police registration.

The Court directed that directions of the court be published in Sinhala and Tamil newspapers too.

The Counsel told court that although Citizen Committees were functioning they were not effective as Tamil representatives were selected by the OICs of the respective areas.Court directed the petitioner to suggest names of persons for the Citizen Committees within the police stations in consultation with civil organisations so that the police could select one.

This procedure will be adopted at 18 police stations in Colombo and 15 police stations in Colombo North and South including Dehiwala and Mt Lavinia.

Referring to arrests and detentions court directed the CWC to make representations and inform to the Additional Solicitor General and Director of the legal unit of the police department if persons were detained beyond the prescribed period,

In response to the complaint that the search operation was carried out without notifying to local police and Citizen Committee, court directed that local police should be notified and the search operation should be carried out with members of the Citizen Committee.

M.A.Sumanthiran instructed by Mohan Balendra appeared for the petitioner. Additional Solicitor General Palitha Fernando appeared for the respondents.

The CWC cited Defence Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, Air Force Commander Roshan Gunatilleke, Navy Commander Wasantha Karanagoda, IGP Victor Perera, Nugegoda Superintendent of Police A.M.W.D.Tennekoon and the Attorney General as respondents.

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Sri Lanka’s Army chief Sarath Fonseka said on Monday the LTTE had “lost the capability to fight as a conventional force” due to the relentless “overall military strategy” since August 2006.

In an interactive session with members of the Sri Lanka Foreign Correspondents Association (FCA) at the Army Headquarters here, Lt. Gen. Fonseka said the Tigers would be reduced to nothing more than a “rag-tag terrorist outfit” in a year’s time.

He made the observation in response to questions on the assertion he made in December last year that the military would “wipe out” the LTTE by June 2008.

Since August 2006, the military had killed an estimated 9,000 LTTE cadre , and lost 1,700 soldiers.

He attributed the success to “overall military strategy” of eliminating the Tiger cadres and the full backing of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Now, the strategy is not about capturing territories, but eliminating LTTE cadres. “We do not just go for terrains, but we go for the kill. This is the difference between the military operations in the past and the present,” he said.

When the current phase of war started in August 2006, the Tigers had a fighting force of 8,000. “As per the intelligence reports, the current cadre of the LTTE in the worst-case scenario is 5,000. Most of the new recruits in the past two years are underage conscripts,” he said.

On the forthcoming SAARC summit and security arrangements, Lt. Gen. Fonseka said ongoing operations would not come in the way of providing foolproof security. Asked about speculation on the possibility of Indian troops taking over the security operations, Lt. Gen. Fonseka said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be here with his security contingent. “If there is a requirement of help from the Indian Navy and Air Force for a specific purpose, we would seek help from New Delhi,” he said.

He said it would be ideal for Sri Lanka to procure all its military requirements from India. However, given the Indian political sensitivities, Sri Lanka does depend on other friendly countries like China and Pakistan for its defence needs.

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