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HT This Day: Dec 4, 1987 — Nine IPKF men among 43 killed

Nine IPKF personnel, including an Army Major and a Junior Commissioned Officer, were killed and 10 others injured in a grim battle with the LTTE at Ottamawadi, about 32 km north of Batticaloa in the eastern province, which began yesterday afternoon.

The Indian High Commission here said today that 24 civilians too had been killed in cross-fire while 21 others were wounded. Besides, 18 houses had been damaged in shell fire in this predominantly Muslim village.

(However, a UNI report quoting “informed sources” says 43 people including nine IPKF personnel and about 10 Tamil militants were killed and another 31 persons injured.)

The High Commission sources however denied reports that any mosque had been damaged in the operations.

While giving these figures, a High Commission official said that some reports about the number of casualties and the damage to property circulating in some local circles here were “grossly exaggerated” as these were based on “fantastic rumours”.

The incident, according to High Commission sources, was sparked off when some Indian troops, who were engaged in a road clearing operations, came under heavy mortar and rocket fire from the LTTE as they got close to the strategically located bridge connecting the northern and southern parts of the region. The Tamil Tigers, who had positioned themselves behind civilian houses in the Ottamawadi village, kept up the firing preventing the Indian troops from getting any reinforcements. The Indian troops retaliated to neutralise the rocket and mortar fire of the LTTE.

The Indian High Commission said not only was this a “typical example” of the Tamil terrorists using the civilian population as a shield, but by selecting a Muslim village they were trying to “generate alienation and misunderstanding between the local Muslim population and the IPKF.”

The 24 civilians killed included two children and one woman, while those injured comprised 11 Muslims and 10 Tamils.

There were no cases of arson or looting as some reports had suggested, the High Commission official said.

Reacting to some reports here regarding a letter said to have been written by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to the former Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike, an Indian High Commission official here said the High Commission was “not aware” of any such communication from the Indian Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, United States Ambassador Jomes W. Spain today reaffirmed his country’s support to the Indo-Sri Lanka peace accord. In a statement on the ven of the Doners Club meeting beginning in Paris tomorrow to discuss the aid proposals, the US Ambassador reiterated his country’s commitment to assist the Sri Lankan Government’s reconstruction programme, especially in the north and the east. “Our commitment to the accord remains steadfast. We strongly believe it provides the best basis at hand upon which to restore peace and prosperity of this country”, the statement added.

UNI adds: The IPKF has unearthed one of the biggest cache of arms and ammunition hidden by the LTITE in the Jaffna peninsula. The seizure yesterday in Jaffna town includes, British, American and Italian made guns, Chinese AK 47 rifles and pistols.

Maj.-Gen. Harkirat Singh, General-Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the IPKF in Jaffna peninsula, told a group of Madras-based media-men who were taken to see the arms at IPKF Navatkuli camp that the seizure was made on the basis of leads given by an LTTE cadre who had surrendered.

Meanwhile, going against all safety regulations, the Sri Lanka Government today advised motorcyclists to refrain from wearing helmets to “avoid inconvenience and questioning” by the police.

“The Transport Ministry has suspended with immediate effect the regulations requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets”, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation announced in its evening bulletin.

The government’s move apparently follows the spate of attacks by motorcycle-borne gunmen, on police personnel and ruling party supports in the city and elsewhere in the south by suspected members of the proscribed Janata Vimukti Permuna.

Meanwhile, the entire Valachenai area has been placed under a 24-hour curfew from six this morning.

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