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Security forces now on a fresh offensive against LTTE guerrillas yesterday recaptured the northern town of Paranthan, the gateway to Kilinochchi where LTTE's northern fortifications are concentrated.
With just over two kilometres to reach Kilinochchi, troops on 'Operation Sathjaya' were meeting stiff resistance. However, a senior military official said they expected to reach the strategic town in Wanni by nightfall.
On Friday, the first day of fighting, an officer and 16 soldiers were killed whilst 71 others were wounded. The military official said troops had killed 33 guererillas but there has been no word from the LTTE on the latest offensive.
The fresh offensive came barely 24 hours after the Defence Ministry made a tactical decision to abandon the Mullaitivu Military Base. It came after troops on 'Operation Trivida Pahara', who were deployed during an eight day long operation to re capture the base reached its southern perimeters but came under heavy resistance from the LTTE.
Army Headquarters is now compiling a report on the number of casualties and the losses that were incurred as a result of the attack on the Mullaitivu military base. only 12 soldiers including an officer had shown up at various intervals after the camp came under attack. "Once the report is ready, we will take action to inform the next of kin accordingly," these sources said.
. In addition the loss of the Shanghai Class Fast Gun Boat which was sunk by Sea Tigers is said to be worth
Defence Ministry officials remained tight lipped on the final aim of 'Operation Sathjaya' or for how long it would continue.
But within hours of its launch, several non-governmental agencies operating out of Mullaitivu withdrew their personnel from the area. This included the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the French based Medicines Sans Frontiers. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is reported to have pruned down its staff and left a limited presence.
Meanwhile in the Anuradhapura district three soldiers were killed and 18 others including two civilian were wounded in a confrontation that followed an LTTE ambush on two vehicles carrying soldiers.
The LTTE used small arms and rocket propelled grenades for the attacks which took place between Thammannewa and Kahatagollawa around 2 pm yesterday.
The Sunday Times yesterday strongly protested to what it sees as senseless censoring of the column, Situation Report, by the competent authority.
Many of the deletions contained political comments and criticisms but Chief Censor Ariya Rubesinghe, when contacted by the Chief Sub Editor,, said they could be interpreted as material lowering the morale of the troops.
The Sunday Times letter sought a reply from Mr. Ariyasinghe so that it could be reproduced with the protest letter but at the time of this edition went to press no such response had been received.
The Sunday Times letter read:
"I refer to the conversation I had with you a few minutes ago regarding the deletions made by you in the Situation Report due to be published tomorrow (Sunday July 28).
We strongly protest that you are acting ultra vires the powers vested with you under the Emergency regulations dated April 19, 1996, which are still in force.
The paragraphs deleted by you referred to criticisms of a political nature and are outside the scope of the said regulations.
My Editor has already drawn your attention on previous occasions to similar conduct, to which he has received no response from you.
I would be grateful if you could formally respond to this protest tonight before we go into print.
In any event, we will be publishing this protest in our newspapers tomorrow. Your reply, if any, will also be reproduced alongside."
- Chief Sub-Editor for Editor
The Kotagala deal will not be cancelled, but new conditions will be introduced to prevent a repeat occurrence when the remaining plantations are sold to the Managing Agents, PERC Chairman Rajan Asirwatham had told the Finance Ministry.
Though the sale of Kotagala Plantations to Lankem was viewed as a voidable transaction, it was felt that a cancellation was not prudent as it may affect investor confidence, sources said.
It was also confirmed that the government would purchase a 49 per cent stake in the Shell terminal company. The funds would come from the sale of the remaining 39 per cent stake in Shell Gas Lanka. The government later hoped to sell their stake at a substantial capital gain.
Meanwhile BOI Chief Thilan Wijesinghe had said that he had committed a procedural error in communicating with Barclay Mowlem before formal cabinet approval was given to negotiate with them in place of Mihaly, sources added.
The Barclay Mowlem deal is to be discussed in greater detail at the next meeting of the committee.
Minister G.L.Peiris, Parliamentarians, Neelan Thiruchelvam, Ronnie de Mel, Ravi Karunanayake and Mahinda Samararasinghe were present at the meeting.
A joint inquiry by police and railway authorities has been launched to ascertain why adequate precautions were not taken after the detection of a bomb before two train bombs exploded at Dehiwela.
Railways chief G. P. S. Weerasooriya confirmed that an inquiry is in progress but declined to elaborate.
While some survivors of the ill-fated train told The Sunday Times that they were not warned that a bomb had been detected, others said there was a fear that there were more bombs in the train.
However, some commuters had pressurised the station authorities that the train should proceed, dismissing a possibility of more bombs being found in the train.
Railway sources said the bomb squad had been alerted first before they informed the Dehiwela Police and the trains controller at Fort.
Railway sources said the railway control room at Fort had told the Head Guard to proceed. The Head Guard who was not sure whether he should follow these instructions, had given the phone to the Deputy Station Master K. P. S. D. Jayasekera who was in charge, and the same instructions had been given again, the sources said.
A few seconds after the train resumed its journey the powerful bombs exploded.
The ICRC has made a formal appeal to the LTTE to allow ICRC officials to visit any security personnel held captive after the Mullaitivu attack.
The appeal sent on July 19, a day after the attack, is yet to be replied to by the LTTE. However, ICRC officials told 'The Sunday Times' that they were expecting a response soon.
"We thought they were delaying because of the offensive was still on but now that it is over they might reply. We asked the LTTE to give us a list of the military personnel in their captivity. We wanted the number so that we can register them in our list", said Chrishanthini Weerakoon, ICRC spokeswomen.
At present ICRC visits about 50 security personnel who are under LTTE custody. "Other than the security personnel we also visit the Irish Moana crew", she said.
Earlier the LTTE handed over 441 bodies of security personnel killed in the Mullaitivu attack, but the ICRC had accepted only 55.
"According to an ICRC principle, we accept bodies which can be identified. In this instance only 55 bodies were able to be identified. The rest were decomposed. We had no other choice but to reject the rest", she said.
However the ICRC has not been able to get any casualty figures by Friday afternoon.
Colombo High Court Judge, Upali de Z. Gunawardena re-fixed the Criminal defamation action filed on behalf of Ms. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga by the Attorney General against the Editor Sunday Times for August 13 during the Court vacation after the state prosecutor asked that the case be heard next Wednesday (July 31) and Defence Counsel said the editor may be undefended by lawyers if that date was fixed.
At the conclusion of the last day's proceedings (Friday), the Deputy Solicitor General made an application to hear the case on a day-to-day basis beginning July 31.
Defence Counsel, S. L. Gunasekara said all the defence lawyers had already accepted work on that day in other courts, and if the trial was to continue on that day, the editor will have to conduct his own case.
After some heated exchanges between the Judge and Defence Counsel, the Judge re-fixed the case for August 13, a date the Editor's lawyers were free. He said he will decide on that date whether the case should be heard on a day-to-day basis. Defence Counsel gave a string of free dates and said that the state's application was a move to deny the Editor's lawyers of his choice.
The price of flour has been increased by Rs.1.50 per kilo with immediate effect, the state run radioannounced yesterday.
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