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Cablegate: Ltte Factions Square Off in Eastern Sri Lanka

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS COLOMBO 000620

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DS FOR DS/IP/ITA, DEPT FOR SA AND SA/INS, NSC FOR MILLARD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CASC CE MOPS PGOV PINS PTER LTTE
SUBJECT: LTTE FACTIONS SQUARE OFF IN EASTERN SRI LANKA

REF: A) COLOMBO 0607 B) COLOMBO/OPCENTER TELCON DATED
04/09/04

1. (SBU) Embassy Colombo received information today that
rival factions of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE), located in eastern Sri Lanka, became engaged in two
gun battles beginning early this morning April 9. Three
cadres, most likely from the northern faction, were reported
killed when a group of about 16 crossed the Verugal River in
the Batticaloa District at approximately 0315 hours local.
The Verugal River has been the scene of a standoff between
LTTE northern and eastern factions since eastern LTTE rebel
leader Karuna split away from the northern LTTE (led by
long-time leader V.Prabhakaran) in early March. According to
RSO contacts in the Sri Lankan Police Special Task Force
(STF), this first infiltration was a diversionary feint for a
later seaborne assault by an estimated 200 northern LTTE
cadres at the coastal town of Kathiraveli, located about 8
kms south of Verugal. In the second attack, STF reported
that eight of Karuna's men were killed. STF reports a group
of Karuna's men are currently encircled between Verugal and
Kathiraveli, but Karuna was not there and is currently
directing a counteroffensive to rescue his men. The conflict
is ongoing and it is not known to what level it might
escalate.

2. (SBU) Separately, the Directorate of Military Intelligence
(DMI), has confirmed that forces loyal to Prabhakaran have
commenced an amphibious assault on Karuna forces in the
Verugal River area. The DMI reported that the forces were
exchanging mortar and small arms fire, resulting in some
30-40 casualties on both sides. At this point, the Sri
Lankan Army is observing the situation but remains unengaged
in the skirmish.

3. (SBU) There is one American USAID contractor in
Trincomalee, located just north of the contested area. The
Embassy DATT was also in Trincomalee to attend a SL Naval
Academy graduation, but he departed Trincomalee for Colombo
this morning and is out of the contested area. RSO has been
in communication with both officials and neither report signs
of trouble in Trinco Town. The Consular Section is in touch
with the (very few) Amcits in the east. The Embassy will be
closed for holidays Friday, Monday, and Tuesday, but we will
continue to monitor and report security developments in the
east throughout the holiday period.

4. (SBU) Comment: There has been some speculation that
Prabhakaran might make a move to eliminate rebel leader
Karuna once Sri Lanka's parliamentary elections concluded on
April 2. As flagged in Ref A, tensions have been quite high
in the east for some time. There have been reports over the
past several weeks of a build-up of pro-Prabhakaran and
pro-Karuna forces in the area along the Verugal River, and
the current fighting appears to be the product of that
build-up. As noted above, how far this conflict might
escalate is unknown.
LUNSTEAD

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