9:04 AM

LTTE days numbered

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.

9:01 AM

500+ Sri Lankan defence officers will train in India this year

India is throwing open its elite defence institutions to over 500 Sri Lankan military officers and men of other ranks this year even as it advocates that Colombo should renew political efforts to end the bloody ethnic strife in the island.

The Sri Lankan defence personnel will receive training in prestigious institutions, ranging from Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte (Mizoram) to School of Artillery at Devlali (Maharashtra). In addition, they will undergoing specialised naval courses in gunnery, navigation, communication and anti-submarine warfare in top defence training centres across the country, according to Indian Defence Ministry sources quoted in a report in The Times of India today.

However, the report does not say if this lot of military personnel coming to India for training in several army institutions is in addition to the one thousand Sri Lankan officers and soldiers who arrive every year for military training in various army, air force and naval training institutions across this country.

India has been training Sri Lankan military personnel regularly at least for the past four decades.

The report said the premier Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun, is going to be running two "special courses" in 2008-2009 for as many as 100 "gentlemen cadets" from Sri Lanka.

In addition, 39 Sri Lankan officers will undergo courses at College of Military Engineering at Pune, 15 in School of Artillery at Devlali, 29 in Mechanised Infantry Regimental Centre at Ahmednagar, 25 in College of Materials Management at Jabalpur, 30 in Electronics and Mechanical Engineering School at Vadodara, 14 at Military College of Telecommunication Engineering at Mhow.

Every year, India trains soldiers from several countries, ranging from Maldives, Mauritius and Mongolia to Botswana, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. But the facilities extended to Sri Lanka are far more than those offered to defence personnel from any other country. In any given year, there are more Sri Lankan defence personnel than those from any other country in the various courses conducted by the Indian defence ministry.

8:24 AM

LTTE to hold Pongku Thamil event in London

Though Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam remains a proscribed Foreign Terrorist Organization in the United Kingdom, it is planning to hold ‘Pongku Thamil’ event in London to glorify Black Tiger suicide cadres and also to raise funds for its war chest. The LTTE is now arranging to hold Pongku Thamil events in all European capitals to promote its sagging popularity in the midst of the Tamil diaspora. The Pongku Thamil event is held to glorify the suicide cadres and also to raise funds for the war efforts against the Sri Lanka Government.

The Pongku Thamil event in London is to be held on 12 July at 3 p.m., at Richardson Evans playing field. Sources told that London LTTE organizers are holding Pongku Thamil event as a ruse to promote and glorify the Black Tigers who have given their lives as weapons in war.

However it is noted that governments in European countries seems to be very alert and monitoring very closely activities of the LTTE members in their respective countries. It was only on 18 June, Italian police arrested 33 LTTE cadres on suspicion of terrorist activities. The Metropolitan Police in the UK have made several arrests over the last few years since the UK Government banned the LTTE, the most high-profile of which was recent re-arrest of LTTE leader A.C Shanthan in Swindon on 06 May.

Recently on 22 June, London based Tharisanam Television; a major propaganda arm of the LTTE was removed from the Hot-Bird satellite platform on the request of the Sri Lanka Government. It is reliably learnt that UK’s Anti-Terrorism branch is presently investigating the organizers behind the event and expected to take appropriate action if necessary.

8:23 AM

U.S. Condemns Attack on British High Commission

The United States condemns the brutal and unprovoked attack on a member of the British High Commission staff and an official of the Sri Lankan Press Institute on June 30. We call on the authorities to bring the perpetrators of this crime swiftly to justice.

We are deeply concerned by a series of recent incidents involving members of the Sri Lankan media. A press that is free of intimidation is an essential component of any democracy.

We note the recent formation of a ministerial committee to ensure the independence of the media, inquire into complaints of harassment and death threats against media personnel and intervene where warranted, and hope this leads to a more conducive environment for the practice of journalism in Sri Lanka.

8:00 AM

Presidential escort chopper in emergency landing

Two helicopters had left for Arugam Bay from Colombo, transporting President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his entourage to the ceremonial opening of the reconstructed Arugam Bay bridge scheduled for yesterday afternoon.

Nanayakkara said the aircraft which developed mechanical problems was the helicopter which transported the Presidential aides.Police said that the Bell 412 had been hit by gunfire from LTTE when it was returning over the Kanjikudichchhciaru jungles and made an emergency landing in Pottuvil.

According to eyewitnesses the gunfire had hit the under carriage of the aircraft and fuel was leaking from the tank."Prior to President’s arrival in Pottuvil, the Tigers had fired seven rounds of mortars at the Sengamuwa STF camp but no damage was caused," a senior Police office said.

A team of investigators and engineers had left Colombo for Pottuvil at the tme this edition went to press.

7:22 AM

Troops recover 8 claymore mines

Security forces personnel acting on civilian information have recovered 8 claymore mines along with a pressure mine and 6 hand grenades during a search operation conducted in general area Ambalangodella, Madukanda in Vavuniya yesterday(June 01) at 8.30a.m.

The recovery included 6 claymore mines each weighing 5kgs, 2 claymore mines each weighing 15kgs and a pressure mine weighing 15Kgs, security sources said. According to defence sources, the mines were found hidden in house at Ambalangodella.