Tamil Tigers continue to chew away at army's morale

Tamil Tigers had long been braced against an attack by the Sri Lankan army on their rebel base at Kilinochi. And when the army offensive, backed by warplanes, began late last month, the Tamil rebels fought back with deadly effect, knowing that if they lost Kilinochi town, they would have nowhere left to go but the jungle.

The rebels erected bunkers and dug watery trenches along the rice paddies, and when the Sri Lankan troops rumbled into the northern outskirts of Kilinochi, the soldiers encountered a hellish barrage of mortars, rockets and machine-gun fire. A military spokesman claimed that nearly 70 soldiers have been killed in the battle for Kilinochi, which has become bogged down to a deadly crawl as the soldiers dodge the bullets and flying shrapnel exploding in the rice fields and marshes.

The Tamil Tigers have admitted to losing 51 defenders in Kilinochi, and through their London office the rebels yesterday claimed that more than 30 Tamil civilians were killed in bombing runs and shelling by Sri Lankan forces. The Tamil Tigers called for "international intervention" to stop the Sri Lankan government's "mass slaughter of the Tamil people".

However, the Sri Lankan army is in no mood to halt itsassault on Kilinochi. During the night of 16 July, the Tamil Tigers over-ran an army camp at Mullaitvu, in the north-east, slaughtering more than1,400 soldiers. Only a dozen men survived; some jumped down a well, others shimmied up coconut trees and clung there in fright until reinforcements arrived five days later. That was the army's worst disaster in its 13-year war against Tamil separatists. But then, on 24 July, the Tamil Tigers reportedly struck again: two bombs exploded on a Colombo train during rush hour, killing at least 70 commuters and injuring 450 others. After these attacks, the army set out to capture Kilinochi, not only for strategic reasons but to restore its battered morale.

Meanwhile, international aid workers have expressed concern for thousands of Tamil refugees who may be trapped in the fighting. More than 200,000 Tamil refugees were huddled around Kilinochi, made homeless by the battles earlier this year on the Jaffna peninsula.

Many refugees have fled into the jungle or run to villages outside the battle zone. But aid workers are worried that the recent offensive has cut off refugees' food and medicine supplies. The Tamil Tigers accuse the government of blocking an aid convoy of about 120 lorries which was trying to reach Tamil refugees inside the rebel-controlled areas.

Even if the Tamil chief, Velupillai Prabkharan, and his Black Tiger suicide squads, are forced to surrender their jungle fortress of Kilinochi, the civil war is far from finished. The well-disciplined and heavily-armed Tigers are a lethal enemy and the government's isolated bases along the eastern coast are easy prey. Yesterday, Tamil Sea Tigers rocketed a Philippine freighter docked north of Trincomalee port.

President Chandrika Kum- aratunga, elected on her promise of bringing peace between the minority Tamils and the Sinhalese, now faces a political battle in Colombo, the capital. Several Tamil parties are now threatening to withdraw support unless she resumes talks "without pre-conditions" with the Tigers. But after the Mullaitivu massacre, Mrs Kumaratunga is being urged by her generals not to re-start peace talks with the Tigers -broken off by the rebel chief, Mr Prabhkharan, in April 1995 - until Kilinochi falls.

Mrs Kumaratunga has slashed back food and agriculture subsidies to pay for the war - and it may be her undoing. Although Colombo and the island's south have been largely isolated from the war, the latest onslaught against the Tamil rebels is crippling the economy.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...