9:24 AM

SAARC Declaration to Call for United Effort Against Terrorism

South Asian leaders meeting in Sri Lanka will today commit themselves to fighting terrorism in their region and call for joint efforts to fight what the Indian leader the "scourge of terrorism."
The eight leaders of the regional bloc will today wind up their two day summit after a morning "retreat" where they will exchange views and ideas without their supporting aides.
The "retreat" that has now become a regular feature following the practice adopted by the Commonwealth heads of government and leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) gives leaders an opportunity to express views freely.
It is expected that the issue of terrorism will figure prominently. The initial statements of regional leaders at the summit opening showed that this remained a major concern particularly after last month’s spate of bombings in India and against the Indian Embassy in Kabul in which two Indian diplomatic officials at the mission died.
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh both made specific reference to these bombings while Pakistan Prime Minister Yosuf Raza Gilani called for a united front against terrorism.
Yesterday’s statements on terrorism indicated what could be expected in the summit declaration. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called terrorism the "biggest single threat" to stability and peace in the region and stressed that terrorists and extremists know no borders. He said that member states must fight to preserve democratic values of pluralism and the rule of law.
Earlier Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa who assumed the chairmanship of SAARC for the next year had pointed out that all countries in the region had faced terrorism and extremism at some time and some member states still do.
He was adamant in his stance that there are no good terrorists and that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations should be wiped out.
After the meetings of the SAARC Council of Ministers, its chairman Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama had said that terrorism will be included as an offence in the Mutual Agreement on Criminal Matters that is to be signed by the SAARC leaders.
At that point Bogollagama said he was not in a position to reveal details but it is understood that by incorporating terrorism within the meaning of the agreement will provide countries with more cooperation to prosecute terrorism-related offences.
This will enhance inter-governmental assistance such as exchange of information and intelligence.
The 15th SAARC summit has been a triumph for Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama whose first major conference involving regional leaders since assuming the office around 18 months ago.
This was the real test of Bogollagama’s prowess in steering SAARC in the coming year will be how well he is able to push through with the implementation of the people-centred policy that is at the heart of Sri Lanka’s year of chairmanship.
Bogollagama is very much a practical man and he would wish to leave his mark on the organisation before he hands over the reigns to the next leader of the Council of Ministers.
The opening ceremony featured colourfully-attired artistes performing a sequence of dances outside the impressive Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) as the leaders were driven in to be greeted by the Sri Lankan foreign minister and then by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Also there to receive the visiting leaders and conduct them on stage was Sri Lanka’s new Chief of Protocol Sudantha Ganegama Aaratchi.

7:22 AM

Army captured Vellankulam – last bastion of Tigers in Mannar district

Sri Lanka Army captured yesterday afternoon, Vellankulam, the last Tiger bastion in the Mannar district.Map of Mannar
By capturing Vellankulam, Sri Lanka Army’s 58 Division has liberated the entire Mannar district within eight months period. Army’s 58 Division commenced their operation to Liberate Mannar district in November 2007. Sri Lanka Army’s 58 Division is commanded by Brigadier Shavindra Silva.
To liberate Mannar, 58 Division mobilized 12 Infantry Battalions, and Commando Brigade, supported by the 5th Armoured Corp regiment, 15 Artillery Regiment, 9 Signal and Engineers.
In this operation, Sri Lanka Air Force deployed their MI 24 fighter helicopters to attacked LTTE bunkers and to bring reinforcement to Army personnel, meanwhile ground troops had given perfect locations of LTTE military installation which enabled the Air Force fighter jets to bomb the exact targets and destroy.
A battle front officer told News-Lanka that the LTTE’s Jaffna commander Thleepan was commanding the Mannar battle front and he was given instruction over the radio to hold on to the position and not allow Army to enter Vellankulam, but Sri Lanka army faced easily the resistance forthcoming from LTTE and chase them away.
Infantry troops with the backing of artillery, captured the Vellankulam, the last coastal town in the Mannar district, located in the Northwest coast, along the A- 32 Road. Reports revealed that some soldiers have seen fleeing LTTE carders carrying bodies of their dead carders and that of those wounded.
After the capture of Velankulam, Sri Lanka Army’s 58 Division was seen marching towards Kilinonochi, while, 571, 572 and 573 Brigades attached to the 57th Division and elite Special Forces are tactically moving towards Thunukkai, Mallavi and Mankulam - which is located just 24 km from Kilinonochi Town.
In the meantime, the 572 Brigade which captured Vannivilankulam, south of Mallavi is now said to be moving towards Mankulam, and further north.
The Tigers are desperately trying to hold on to Mankulam, summoning additional cadres from the north to Mankulam to strengthen their defence.
One officer who commands the battle front said 'Army don't have forward defence line, but the Army do have forward offensive line'