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Antagonism deepens in Batticaloa-Amparai

Antagonism between the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lankan security forces the restive Batticaloa-Amparai region deepened this week amid a continuing cycle of violence.

A week after several LTTE cadres were killed and wounded in a deep penetration raid blamed on Army-backed irregulars, a top paramilitary commander was assassinated Wednesday at his base within a High Security Zone (HSZ).

And, stung by recent attacks on its personnel, the counter-insurgency arm of the Sri Lankan police, the Special Task Force (STF) issued a statement this week threatening the LTTE.

“What the STF would like to convey is that there is a limit to everything and a battle hardened organisation like the STF does not like to be pushed all the time. If anyone wants to test the patience of the STF they are at liberty to go ahead,” it said.

“The STF also wishes to state that the LTTE has been lucky throughout, without experiencing the severity of the law, thanks to the Ceasefire Agreement.”

On Wednesday, the leader of the Razeek Group, one of the most feared paramilitary groups operating in the eastern province, was killed in a grenade attack on his fortified camp attached to Sri Lanka Army (SLA) base at Lake Road in Batticaloa town.

Sivaguru Navaratnarajah, 38, known as ‘Kanthy’ was rushed to Batticaloa Hospital with serious injuries and died at the hospital, TamilNet reported.

SLA soldiers and police opened fire, then cordoned off and searched the surrounding area following the attack.

Navaratnarajah took over the Razeek group when its founder-leader, Razeek (Muthtulingam Ganeshakumar) was killed in a suicide attack in May 1999.

The Razeek Group was one of the most effective paramilitaries involved in SLA counter insurgency operations against the LTTE in the east, but began steadily losing its role after Razeek’s death, TamilNet reported. The group is attached to ninth battalion of the SLA’s National Guard (9 SLNG), a territorial unit comprising largely of paramilitary operatives and dropouts from regular military regiments.

The LTTE says Sri Lankan military intelligence is deploying five paramilitary groups in a concerted campaign of violence against its members and supporters in the eastern province.

The military denies any involvement in the attacks and claims gunmen loyal to renegade LTTE commander, Karuna, are responsible.

Karuna, a former LTTE commander, defected to the SLA in April 2004 following the collapse of his six-week rebellion against the LTTE leadership. Since then several LTTE cadres and supporters, paramilitaries and security forces personnel have been killed in violence that has come to characterise a ‘shadow war.’

On Tuesday at least five gunmen opened fire on a police checkpost 2 km from the Valaichenai police station. Police returned fire. There were no casualties.

On Sunday Welikanda police found the dead bodies of two cadres of the Karuna group in Karapola, a Tamil village in the interior of Polannaruwa district, northwest of Batticaloa.

Press reports early this year said the paramilitary outfit was operating several camps in the area which is deep within Sri Lanka Army controlled territory.

Also Sunday gunmen fired at a police convoy returning from Oddamavady market in a tractor at Kalkudah-Valaichenai road in Valaichenai. No one was injured.

On Thursday two men on a motorbike lobbed a grenade at the SLA sentry post near the Batticaloa Railway station at Kalliyankadu. No one was hurt. The checkpoint, 2 km east of Batticaloa town, has been attacked with grenades four times within a period of five weeks.

Also on Thursday, a Karuna Group cadre was shot dead by Sri Lankan police whilst he was firing at a suspected member of the LTTE near a bus stand on Rosiro Road in Batticaloa town.

On the same day, two STF troopers were killed and five wounded, along with civilians in two separate attacks on security forces units monitoring the Batticaloa - Kalmunai Road in Manmunai.

Almost all casualties resulted when attackers lobbed a grenade into an STF vehicle on Mariyamman Kovil road when it was returning to Manmunai STF camp from Thalankudah. Also at Manmunai, one policeman was wounded when attackers lobbed a grenade and fired at the STF and police personnel on Batticaloa - Kalmunai Road.

Last Tuesday three LTTE cadres were killed and five others wounded when a heavily armed group of SLA soldiers raided a sentry post at Kattumurivu inside LTTE-controlled Vaharai. LTTE officials said that the attackers retreated to the SLA camp at Singapura, 3 km west of Kattumurivu and located between Vaharai and Kathiraveli.

Meanwhile, the STF together with Police are conducting surprise search operations in Tamil areas like Chenaikudiruppu, Natpiddimunai and Pandiruppu in the Kalumunai region, the Daily Mirror reported.

Scores of troops cordoned off Pandiruppu on Thursday and conducted a search operation, arresting two people near the LTTE office in the area, which had been closed at the time.

Sri Lankan security forces last Friday abruptly closed six crossing points between areas controlled by them and those held by the LTTE: Kiran Boat Service, Ferry services at Manmunai and Ampalanthurai, Chenkalady Black Bridge, Batticaloa-Vavunathivu bridge and Kaluwanchikudy-Pandiruppu Bridge.

The access points were reopened a day later after representations to international ceasefire monitors of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).

But the SLA blocked transport of the Tamil daily “Batticaloa Eelanatham” into their controlled areas. Editor P Venugopal, said soldiers at the access route checkpoints have received orders from senior SLA officers not to allow the paper through.

Batticaloa Eelanatham is published in the LTTE controlled area of Kokkadichcholai and has a daily circulation of 5000. The paper started after the signing of the February 2002 ceasefire agreement.

Compiled from TamilNet reports

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