Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 12:49 GMT


World: South Asia

Civilians return to frontline town

Many of the refugees stayed in makeshift camps

Civilians have begun returning to the strategic garrison town of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka, after Tamil Tiger separatists called off a planned attack.

Conflict in Sri Lanka
  • An unwinnable war?
  • Timeline of conflict
  • Leading the Tigers
  • The ethnic divide
  • In a broadcast over the clandestine Voice of Tigers radio station, the Tigers urged people to return after having asked them to leave last week.

    The Tigers said they were responding to requests by international aid agencies to halt their advance because of the difficult conditions faced by civilians.

    Thousands of Tamil residents fled Vavuniya, some 260 km north of the capital Colombo, after the Tamil Tigers announced last week they were closing in on the town.

    Sri Lankan defence forces rushed in additional troops reinforcements, as gunfire was heard at the edge of the town.

    Vavuniya's most senior government administrator, Kandiah Ganesh, said 12,000 families were displaced in the region, while another 20,000 had fled the town.

    Return


    The BBC's Jannat Jalil in Colombo: "Heavy rain has slowed down the return"
    Many of the town's 100,000 residents are now returning, after having spent most of the week in makeshift open camps.

    Streets in Vavuniya are filling up, after being deserted over the past week. Train services have resumed and some buses are running.

    The assault on Vavuniya came after the Tamil Tiger rebels launched their latest offensive, codenamed "Unceasing Wave 3", on 2 November.

    Within the past two weeks, they have overrun several government-held towns in the north and northeast, with heavy losses for the Sri Lankan military.

    Click here to see a map of the warzone

    Thousands of troops were mobilised and sent to the frontline to check the Tiger advance.


    [ image:  ]
    The defence ministry has now launched an investigation into what is being describe as the military's worst ever defeat.

    The Tigers have now regained a large proportion of the land taken by the army during its 19-month offensive - Operation Jayasikuru, or Victory Assured - which was abandoned last December.

    The military setbacks are seen as a personal embarrassment for President Chandrika Kumaratunga, ahead of next month's presidential elections.

    Both Ms Kumaratunga and her main rival, Ranil Wickremesinghe of the opposition UNP, say they will hold talks with the Tigers if they win election.

    The Tigers are fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka.




    [ image:  ]

    (click here to return)





    Advanced options | Search tips




    Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©




    Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia



    Relevant Stories

    16 Nov 99 | South Asia
    Sri Lanka battle lines drawn

    12 Nov 99 | South Asia
    Tamil rebels advance on key town

    11 Nov 99 | South Asia
    Civilians flee Sri Lankan town

    10 Nov 99 | South Asia
    Sri Lanka: The ethnic divide

    09 Nov 99 | South Asia
    Extra troops sent to face Tigers

    08 Nov 99 | South Asia
    Analysis: Kumaratunga under pressure

    04 Nov 99 | South Asia
    Timeline of the Tamil conflict

    04 Aug 99 | South Asia
    Sri Lanka: Searching for a solution

    04 Aug 99 | Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka's unwinnable war





    Internet Links


    Sri Lankan Government Information Department

    TamilNet


    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




    In this section

    Sharif: I'm innocent

    India's malnutrition 'crisis'

    Tamil rebels consolidate gains

    From Sport
    Saqlain stars in Aussie collapse

    Pakistan fears Afghan exodus

    Hindu-Buddhist conference in Nepal

    Afghan clerics issue bin Laden fatwa

    Culture awards at Asian festival

    Gandhi pleads for husband's killer

    UN condemns Afghan bombing

    Gandhi prize for Bangladeshi