Sri Lanka: December 22, 1999

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Thousands of additional troops and much ammunition is being moved north, both to stem the continuing LTTE offensive, but also apparently to prepare for an eventual government counterattack. Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga who was re-elected to a second term as president. She pledged to continue military and diplomatic efforts to bring peace.

December 20; There are hundreds of thousands of landmines planted in Sri Lanka (by both the government and the LTTE rebels), and they kill or maim hundreds of people every month. The UN has sent a mine-clearing team into the country, which cleared several square kilometers of the city of Jaffna after the Army captured it from the LTTE. However, the UN mine-clearing team left when the monsoons began in November and will not return until spring. In marshy areas, landmines are often moved several feet, and sometimes hundreds of yards, by the heavy rains. The landmines are a major problem. The military mined the perimeter of their various forts and camps, often leaving the fields unmarked when the camps were overrun or abandoned. The LTTE routinely laid huge minefields in front of expected Army attacks, some of which never happened. During November, the LTTE breached the minefields around a dozen Army battle positions and then captured the outposts. When the Army was about to capture Jaffna, the LTTE spent its last two days in control of the city burying tens of thousands of landmines in residential areas to ensure it could not be reoccupied. Both the government and the LTTE have refused to sign the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. --Stephen V Cole

December 19; Army troops have withdrawn from their bases guarding the neck of the Jaffna peninsula. There has been heavy fighting in this area, and the LTTE advance allows them to more easily move from their Jaffna stronghold to other parts of northern Sri Lanka.

December 18; A woman suicide bomber at a political rally nearly killed Sri Lanka president Chandrika Kumaratunga. But the president was only wounded by fragments. Thirteen others were killed and over a hundred injured. Another suicide bomber struck at an opposition political rally, killing fifteen and wounding over fifty.

December 17; An LTTE offensive in the north has driven government troops out of Paranthan, near the neck of the Jaffna peninsula. Rebels also shot down an Mi-24 gunship.

 

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