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Lankan Navy foils Sea Tiger attack

April 29, 2009 15:37 IST

Amid reports that LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran and his top aides may try to flee, Sri Lankan Navy in a pre-dawn attack sank six rebel boats and foiled seven attempts by Tigers to recapture Rektavaikkal fortifications, which have left the Tigers vulnerable.

Lankan warships detected six Tiger boats sneaking out of the coastal patch they still hold, sinking all of them and killing 25 rebels on board, a Naval spokesman said.

The presence of boats with the Tigers indicates that they are still holding on to some of them to attempt a breakout.

"There were 25 rebels on board the six Tiger boats that were sunk on Wednesday morning," the spokesman said, adding the four of the craft were laden with explosive for a possible suicide strike against Lankan boats to make a passage for the other two boats to make a getaway.

Sri Lanka has put its Naval forces on full alert and put up a 24-hour blockade of the Mullaittivu coastline still in Tiger hands.

On the ground, LTTE cadres made as many as seven suicide attacks to recapture the fortification near Rektavaikkal, which were breached by Lankan troops on Tuesday, as reports from war zone said Prabhakaran had switched over to wearing civilian dress to avoid detection and targetting by Lankan forces.

In fresh offensive army today captured another Tiger fortification killing nine more rebels. Advancing further south after breaking through LTTE defences, the army captured a 200 metre long earth bund, which was still under construction, the army said.

The fortification was wrested after intense hand-to-hand fighting which lasted for hours.

According to the defence ministry, the troops are now dominating the Valayanmadan area.

In what is considered a stunning recovery, the security forces found an improvised armour-plated six-wheel truck, apparently used for transport of LTTE leaders across un-cleared areas in the most recent past.

This bullet-proof vehicle could accommodate a few passengers inside in addition to its driver, the ministry said.

The frontal section of the vehicle, identical to that of a modern electric train had also a powerful communication antenna, jutting out from one side of the driver's seat. The vehicle has also been used recently as empty biscuit wrappers and water bottles were found from the inside.

According to a senior official, if the tiger leader has failed in his attempt to escape earlier, it would not be possible for him to leave the no-fire zone now as the army and the Navy are on full alert.

The 23 hardcore Tiger cadres, who surrendered to the troops at Valayarmadam on Sunday, revealed that Prabhakaran had ordered that civilians fleeing Tiger custody into military controlled areas to be gunned down, the Bottom Line newspaper reported.

"They also revealed that the Tiger leader has deployed a special team to shoot at civilians fleeing Tiger custody," it said.

The surrendered LTTE cadres also said that Prabhakaran now wears a civilian dress and not the LTTE uniform, and that, he was shifting from bunker to bunker, always escorted by Black Tiger or suicide cadres.

According to the senior LTTE leader Daya Master, who gave himself up to the army recently, Prabhakaran is still holed up in a coastal strip in the north and has told his cadres that he will fight on.

Meanwhile, quoting the confession of Daya Master, senior military commander Brigadier Shavendra Silva said the cream of the LTTE was also with the elusive Prabhakaran in Mullaitivu district.

Brig Silva said Daya Master had told military officers that 54-year-old Prabhakaran had personally told his fighters that he will be with them "till the last moment".

According to Daya Master, key LTTE leaders who were giving the rebel chief company included Sea Tigers chief Soosai, intelligence unit leader Pottu Amman and military strategist Bhanu.

T V Sriram in Colombo
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