LTTE bunker-lines destroyed in three-pronged assault

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Colombo, Jan 30 (UNI) Sri Lankan Army today claimed that its troops successfully destroyed 35 bunkers along the LTTE's first line of defence amidst fierce artillery duels in a pre-dawn three-pronged operation launched towards the rebel-held areas.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told reporters here today that the troops backed by artillery and aerial bombardment went forward and attacked 35 bunkers located along the LTTE's first line of defence in the Muhamalai, Nagarkovil and Kilali areas, forcing the LTTE to withdrew to their second defence lines.

''Troops monitoring the LTTE communications confirmed that 10 LTTE cadres have been killed and 30 more cadres have either been killed or wounded during this operation,'' Brig Nanayakkara said.

He said the troops attached to the 55 Divisions and 53 Divisions of the Sri Lankan Army backed by T-55 Main Battle Tanks have conducted this operation, claiming that only seven soldiers suffered injuries during the confrontation and rushed to the military base hospital in Palaly, Jaffna.

''Troops returned to their original positions after successfully destroying the LTTE first line of defence in these areas,'' Brig Nanayakkara said, adding that the troops have also recovered a 60 mm mortar and a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) launcher along with a few ammunitions from these areas.

Although there was no official reaction from the LTTE in this regard, a pro-LTTE puthinam.com website quoting the LTTE sources reported the fighting formations of the rebels have thwarted the three-pronged assault by the government troops in the Jaffna peninsula this morning after 45-minute long fierce clashes.

Meanwhile, Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Andy Wijesuriya said the supersonic ground attack jets of the Air Force have pounded an LTTE base near the Muhamalai where fighting took place this morning.

''An LTTE field headquarters at Waddukaddu, located two kilometres south of Muhamalai, was bombed by the air force jets this morning.

The pilots confirmed that the LTTE field headquarters was completely destroyed,'' Wing Commander Andy Wijesuriya said.

It was only yesterday that the LTTE fired several long-range artillery shells towards the Palaly military base, minutes before a military plane carrying top defence officials, including Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Army Chief Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka and Chief of Staff Air Chief Marshal Donald Perera was scheduled to land.

Brig Nanayakkara said the defence top brass aborted their mission to Jaffna after LTTE shelling and returned to Colombo safely.

UNI XC ARB RS1549

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