Mutur: The peace of the graveyard
As the Sri Lanka Air Force Russian built Mi 17
troop transport helicopter dropped altitude, the pilot fired rounds
of flares. It resembled a fireworks display.
A bright luminous light illuminated the air and
soon turned into snowflake like clouds. Within seconds he touched
down inside the Eastern Naval Area Headquarters at the Dockyard
Air Force pilots were not taking chances. That
has become a routine drill to deflect surface-to-air missiles fired
by Tiger guerrillas. The flares that generated heat could deflect
the surface-to-air missiles. Such missiles were heat seeking and
would otherwise hit a helicopter or aircraft.
At the crack of dawn I was among a group of media
personnel who left the Ratmalana airport in a Harbin Y 12 aircraft.
We landed at the SLAF base in Hingurakgoda and transferred to the
Mi 17. After we landed at the Dockyard, our first visit was to the
Trincomalee hospital. Navy personnel were bringing in injured civilians.
Others were undergoing surgery or were being tended to by doctors
or nurses. There were more than 50 of them. Medical staff said others
were in different wards.
Arriving at the Dockyard waterfront, we donned
bullet proof vests and steel helmets before we boarded Dvora fast
attack craft (FAC) that cut across the deep seas to some 500 metres
ahead of the Mutur Jetty, recaptured by troops after Tiger guerrillas
laid siege for two days. We waited till dinghies arrived, boarded
them and landed at the jetty. A walk led us to the Navy detachment,
a row of battle scarred buildings. Bodies of Tiger guerrillas killed
in the shooting lay strewn all round. I took photographs. I spoke
to senior military officials and learnt of how the scenes I visited
were bloody battlefield only hours earlier.
I learnt that attacks by Tiger guerrillas have
forced some 30,000 civilians to flee their homes. Most were Muslims
and have moved into makeshift camps in Kantalai. A delegation of
Government Muslim leaders, including Western Province Governor Alavi
Mowlana and Petroleum Resources Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, had arrived
there to tend to their needs. The team had been dispatched by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa. I was told that 52 buses were used yesterday
to bring in more displaced families from Mutur.
Mass kitchens were turning out hot meals for them.
The Government had sent in a medical team. A consignment of 10,000
mats arrived by air. More were due today. Yesterday, in Mutur civilians
who chose to remain were being fed with bread and dhal.
Government officials said troops were still busy
clearing the outlying areas of Mutur. It is only thereafter that
full normalcy will be restored to the troubled town of Mutur, they
aid worker among the dead
A foreign woman attached to an International
Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) was killed along with
two others when an artillery shell landed near their vehicle
on Friday evening near Palathopoor in Mutur, SLMM officials
in Trincomalee said.
They said SLMM chief Ulf Henricsson tried to reach the site
but the Army warned him that the area was heavily mined. In
the lead up to the site, SLMM monitors said they saw the dismembered
bodies of soldiers killed in a mine blasts.
The SLMM officials said the monitors hoped to reach the
site today after the Army cleared the areas mined by the retreating