6:46 AM

‘No Fire’ zones for civilians in Mullaitivu

With the war entering a crucial stage, the Army has established two ‘No Fire Zones’ in Mullativu, to provide safety to civilians, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka announced in Anuradhapura yesterday.

The two ‘No Fire Zones’ in Oththukudai and Vishhamadu in Mullaitivu, encompassing 10 sq.km, have been designated safe zones for all civilians. Gen. Fonseka made these comments at the Flag Blessing ceremony to celebrate the Army’s 59th anniversary at the Sri Maha Bodhi yesterday. The Government Agents have been ordered to notify all the people in the area, who have not already evacuated, to leave immediately for the zones. Humanitarian assistance will be given within these zones.

The Army Commander also announced that the recruitment drive launched at the start of this month, would see the current Army of 160,000 soldiers rise to 200,000, and with the “imminent take over of Kilinochchi,” it would be expanded to 300,000. The extra soldiers would be needed to monitor the large land masses taken over in recent offensives by government forces, according to the Commander. The government has already approved the Force expansion to 200,000. This would also mean that around four to five new Divisions would be formed to absorb the fresh intake of recruits.

“Almost all civilians have left the Kilinochchi area and we are only 2km from the town. The LTTE casualties in the hospital have been removed and we are confident that the LTTE is gearing up for their last battle. Intelligence sources have indicated that even the most senior LTTE cadres have been summoned to the front and every sign points to a final battle,” he reiterated.

Key members of the LTTE hierarchy have been notified through Army intelligence to hand themselves over, and the Army is confident that they will be able to prevail, Fonseka maintained. He also remarked that a gun used to launch CS gas canisters has been recovered by the Army and that they were taking steps to counter the attacks.

“We have taken over the stretch of A9 Road spanning Mankulam, Iranamadu and Kokavil, so that the LTTE would find it almost impossible to infiltrate that area or launch attacks along the A9 Road. Both LTTE runways are covered by us, thus negating any possibility of an air attack,” he said.

Meanwhile, Air Force MI-24 helicopter gunships carried out a precise air sortie on an LTTE bunker line situated 3.5 km northeast of the dam of Akkarayankulam tank bund around 9:15 a.m. yesterday. The Air Force stated that the air raid was carried in support of ground troops of the 57 Division engaged in operations in the area.