Soldier rescued from Tiger captivity in east
Karuna and army trade charges over responsibility of rescue operation
By Easwaran Rutnam
The Karuna faction and the military which has long been accused of collaborating with each other were certainly not in good terms yesterday as both parties traded charges claiming responsibility for the rescue of a soldier who was held captive by the LTTE in the east.
Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said Sergeant Ratnayake, who was reported missing in action since October this year, was rescued by the Army when he was being transported from the Thoppigala jungles in Batticaloa to Vakarai.
“The Army confronted the LTTE between Welikanda and the Poonani railway station. Sergeant Ratnayake was being transported at the time by the LTTE when the confrontation took place. We managed to rescue the soldier,” Brigadier Samarasinghe told the Daily Mirror.
The soldier was admitted to the Polonnaruwa Hospital for treatment and his family members were expected to visit him last evening. The Military spokesman said that five LTTE cadres were killed in the confrontation on Wednesday night while five T-56 assault rifles were also recovered in a subsequent search operation conducted in the area.However Karuna spokesman Azaath Maulana had a different story, saying that cadres loyal to Karuna Amman rescued the injured soldier following a confrontation with the LTTE and later had handed him over to the military in Marnkerni.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror Mr. Maulana claimed that the LTTE launched an attack on the Karuna faction near Poonani on Wednesday night resulting in a confrontation between the two factions in which at least 20 Tiger cadres were killed.
“We found the sergeant in the area where the confrontation took place. We handed him over to the military at Marnkerni last morning. We are glad he is alive. That is what is important,” the Karuna faction spokesman said.
Brigadier Samarasingha however refuted the claims saying there were two separate confrontations and that the soldier was rescued following the confrontation between the troops and the LTTE.
Mr. Maulana meanwhile said that 10 children under 16 years of age were also rescued from the same area and would be handed over to UNICEF within the next few days.
The LTTE meanwhile claimed that the Army attacked a convoy of wounded Tiger cadres being transported by the LTTE medics from Vakarai to Tiger-controlled Karadiyanaru for medical treatment via the sea on Wednesday night.
LTTE Military Spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan said the Army attacked an unarmed medical transport and described the attack as "cowardly."
"Wounded LTTE fighters and a wounded Sri Lanka soldier were being transported by our medics. Also, a group of civilians who wanted to move out of Vakarai but not to a Sri Lanka Army controlled territory, were sent in the medical transport," Mr. Ilanthirayan said. The ICRC had contacted the LTTE and informed that the bodies were taken to Valaichenai Hospital and the wounded admitted to the Batticaloa Hospital, according to the LTTE military spokesman.
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