The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Friday, 27 June 2008

Sri Lankan military says it has killed 49 rebels

Sri Lankan forces captured a Tamil Tiger supply center and bombed a rebel training base amid a surge in the island's civil war that killed 49 insurgents and two soldiers, the military said Friday.

"This shows that the soldiers are moving forward, gaining ground," military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The army offensives are taking place in areas with a lot of rebel fighters, leading to the high death tolls, he said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not immediately be reached for comment.

The government has vowed to crush the Tamil Tigers and capture the vast area controlled by the rebels by the end of this year.

In the latest fighting, troops seized a key supply base Thursday in the northern Vavuniya district that was used to replenish the Tamil Tigers' front line troops, Nanayakkara said.

The battle, as well as two other clashes in Vavuniya, killed 30 rebels, he said.

Other fighting Thursday along the front lines in the Mannar and Welioya regions bordering the rebels' de facto state in the north killed 19 rebels and two soldiers, he said.

The military said fighting over the past week has killed 180 rebels and 19 soldiers. Analysts accuse both sides of exaggerating enemy losses and underreporting their own casualties.

Meanwhile, air force fighter jets pounded a rebel training base Friday deep inside rebel territory, the army said. Nanayakkara did not provide details of damage or casualties, but said the pilots confirmed that the target was hit.

It was not possible to independently verify the military reports because journalists are banned from the northern jungles where much of the fighting takes place.

The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Source: AP

SriLankan to fly six times a week to Colombo from Doha

SriLankan Airlines yesterday announced it will be increasing its frequencies to Colombo out of Doha to six times a week with effect from July 15. The airline uses Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft on the route.

The flights will depart from Doha daily except Saturday. Three flights a week will be routed via Bahrain, Mohamed Fazeel, SriLankan Airlines Regional Manager (Middle East, Africa and CIS), said yesterday.

The increased frequencies can be attributed in part to the Sri Lankan government's moves to increase tourism from the GCC. A special promotion is also being offered where two children aged 12 and under will be allowed to fly free. Arrangements have been made with certain hotels in Sri Lanka as well as ground services like airport transfers to ensure the package is carried forward there, Fazeel said.

"We have confidence in this (Doha) market. This has been a profitable route for the airline in comparison to points like Dubai, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Muscat. Doha and Bahrain are the only routes on which we have increased frequencies," he said.

Bookings for the holiday package have to be completed by July 15 and the promotion runs until August 31. "We hope to attract more Qataris to Sri Lanka. This is the peak time for Arabs in the region to travel. If all goes well, we may even extend the promotion," said Fazeel.

Last year, 800 nationals visited Sri Lanka from Qatar and another 1,800 residents went to the island-nation last year. SriLankan is also touting its easy connections to destinations in the Far East, via Colombo, to points like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

The airline, like most others around the world, has been hit by the rising costs of jet fuel, forcing it to raise fares by 10 to 15 percent across the board. "We are trying to cut down costs but not in passenger-related areas. There has been staff cuts and e-ticketing has helped us reduces costs in printing tickets," said Fazeel.

Asked about whether Emirates would sell its 43 percent stake in Sri Lanka's national airline, Fazeel said it was up to the Dubai-based carrier to decide. Although Emirates continues to hold on to SriLankan shares, it has relinquished management control.

After Emirates gave up management control, rumours abounded about other carriers moving in to pick up Emirates' shares, including Qatar Airways, which firmly denied it had any interest. Other names mentioned include India's Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines.

SriLankan operates a fleet of 14 all-Airbus aircraft. Although no acquisition of jets is planned, the airline is looking to 're-fleet' its Airbus A320 aircraft through leases of jets.

Source: thepeninsulaqatar

LTTE rebels sourcing explosives from India

Indian intelligence agencies said Sri Lanka's rebels are sourcing raw materials for explosives from two major Indian cities.

According to a senior Intelligence Bureau official, armed guerrillas of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are sourcing raw materials for explosives and ammunition from Information Technology city Bangalore and industrial city Mumbai, previously called Bombay.

India's enforcement agencies seized an important commercial consignment of chemicals, which is used in making explosives, at Madurai in southern Tamil Nadu state last month. It was dispatched from Bangalore and was meant for delivery to the LTTE, who have been waging an armed battle against the island government demanding independence.

The consignment -- 500 kilograms (more than 1,100 pounds) of a variety of chemicals including diphenylamine sulfates, some chlorate salts and acids -- was seized minutes before it was to be offloaded at a transit point, the enforcement department said.

"The seized chemicals can be altered to make explosives. The consignment was marked commercial and was to be handed over to some locals and Sri Lankans, who were assigned with the task of smuggling it to Sri Lanka. "We have arrested some people and are investigating the case," said an official.

Source: upi