Sri Lanka: The Mauling At Mannar

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April 3,2008: Sri Lanka remains the bloodiest conflict in the region, killing more people each week than the fighting in Pakistan or Afghanistan. So far this year, over 2,500 have died, over 90 percent of them LTTE Tamil rebels. That's more than the rest of the region combined, and is largely because Sri Lanka is in the tropics and it's the dry season. But the rains are beginning down there, so the killing will slow down a bit.

The air force has been bombing shipyards and air strips in the north. The new boats are used for smuggling weapons, and the air strips allow the LTTE to use their half dozen or so small aircraft to fly in essential supplies, or people. LTTE fighters are short on ammo, but not determination. Most of the rebel fighters still hold out until killed. While the number of LTTE gunmen who surrender keep increasing, the majority still have plenty of fight.

The army has been concentrating on the northwest Mannar distract, trying to clear the LTTE out of the area, leaving the rebels restricted to the northern tip of the island. The casualties have been high, about 500 a week. The fighting is constant, but low level. Lots of small arms fire, some mortar and artillery fire, and the occasional appearance of a helicopter gunship or jet fighter-bomber. The key weapon, however, has been mortars (60mm, 81mm and 120mm). This has led to an ammo shortage, and the government has found Pakistan willing to rush mortar shells to the island.

The LTTE is shifting more of their operations to the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where over 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees live, in over a hundred refugee camps. The LTTE recruits agents from the refugees, and people to help run arms smuggling operations. The Indian police are paying more attention to what goes on among these refugees.

 

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