UK call to extend pause in offensive rejected
*53 Div recovers four more surface to air missiles

The army recovered four surface to air missiles hidden by retreating LTTE cadres east of Puthukudiyiruppu on Tuesday (14) evening as Sri Lanka turned down a British call for a longer pause in offensive operations on the Vanni front.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama asserted that suspension of offensive operations would only help the LTTE to strengthen its positions in the ‘no fire’ zone.

Foreign Ministry sources told The Island that British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had discussed the possibility of extending a two-day suspension of operations on April 13 and 14 to facilitate the evacuation of civilians. Sources said that Miliband had phoned Bogollagama, who is on an official visit to New Delhi, on Monday (13).

An authoritative official told The Island that Miliband had also raised the issue of the appointment of a special envoy to engage the Sri Lankan government. He said that Bogollagama had emphasised that Sri Lanka’s decision not to recognize a special envoy remained unchanged. Earlier, Sri Lanka rejected the appointment of Des Browne, a former Defence Secretary as the Special Envoy in the second week of February.

Close on the heels of the UK’s call, the EU, too, urged Sri Lanka to extend the suspension.

The Army said that the 53 Division commanded by Major General Kamal Gunarathne had found the four serviceable missiles buried by the LTTE near a tree in the area. An SLAF official told The Island that the recovered missiles could be SAM 14s of Soviet origin. He said that the LTTE had previously fired SAM 14s and during recent clearing operations east of the A9 the army had recovered 13 SAM 14 tubes. Two serviceable SAM 14 missiles had been recovered by the army and the police before the latest detection made by the 5th Gemunu Watch (5GW).

On March 25, two SLAF Bell- 212 helicopters engaged in casualty evacuation operations in general area Puthukudiyirippu at around 11a.m survived LTTE missile attacks.

The army said that during two-day suspension of offensive action, troops deployed in the Puthukkudiyiruppu East and Ampelavanpokkanai had come under heavy machine gunfire and sporadic shelling from the LTTE. One soldier was killed by an LTTE sniper while two received injuries due to shelling.

Although the LTTE rejected the government’s unilateral offer and demanded a permanent ceasefire under the auspices of the international community, 239 persons including 96 children risked their lives to reach the area held by the 8 GR (Gajaba Regiment) and 10 GR.

The previous day, the Navy facilitated the evacuation of the 20th batch of patients who had been under LTTE hostage in the No Fire Zone in Mullaittivu .

The batch consisting of 474, patients and their bystanders was evacuated to Pulmudai, onboard MV Green Ocean sailing under the ICRC flag.

Separately, the Navy rescued 26 civilians who were fleeing from the LTTE clutches in Mullaittivu on the same day.

In the run-up to two-day pause in the offensive, the LTTE mounted four attempts to dislodge the 53 Division troops deployed across Mullaitivu-Paranthan road. The army said that fighting erupted at 6 in the morning lasted more than 12 hours. The army said that during Sunday’s (April 12) battles, at least 40 LTTE cadres were killed and 20 wounded. The army had recovered 18 T-56 rifles, two radio communication sets, one commando mortar launcher, and one motor vehicle during the subsequent search operations.

Sources said that the LTTE had lost an earth bund built across the A-35 road up to the northern edge of the Nanthikadal lagoon. With the latest military advance, troops have established their positions less than 2 km to the bridge in the Vellamullaivaikkal on the A-35. The bridge is the main road access to the narrow land stretch on the north-eastern coast, where the LTTE holds thousands of civilians as a human shield.

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