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Officials on mission to repair water tank for elephants killed by Tamil Tigers

By Walter Jayawardhana

ARMY AND WILD LIFE OFFICIALS ON A MISSION TO REPAIR DRINKING WATER TANK FOR ELEPHANTS KILLED BY TAMIL TIGERS

An army search operation found the eight bullet ridden bodies of two army officers, two army soldiers, the officer in charge of the Wilpattu Wild Life Park and three wild life rangers, believed tortured and killed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) insurgents.

Among the dead were Lt. Col. Jayantha Suraweera, the area commander of Anuradhapura and the OIC of the Wilpattu Wild Life Park Wasantha Pushpananda.

The other five dead people have been identified as Corporal Kapila Kumara, Private Suranga and three rangers, M.D.Witharane, Kelum Jayawardena and Chandana Pradeep Navaratne.

The bodies were found with gunshot injuries and severe cutting injuries that showed signs of torture before death.

The Army and wild life park men were not involved in a military mission but were performing an environmental protection job in the Wilpattu Park making a feasibility study of reparing the Ikiriyagolla Irrigation Tank which was the main source of water for the large herds of wild elephants in the park.

The government wanted to repair the tank as the elephants were roaming into nearby human habitations since the tank was in a condition of disrepair for some time and enough water was not collected for the elephants. Villagers were complaining of elephants in their habitats and the army thought of resolving the problem by repairing the tank to hold enough water for elephants as well as farmers who used to get water from the tank for irrigating.

Some years ago, the army sources said, the workmen sent there for repairs had been threatened and chased away by the Tamil Tigers who were misusing the Park as a hide out and kill wild animals for food although it was an animal sanctuary.

The team led by Lt. Col Jayantha Suraweera and the OIC of the park wanted to prepare a feasibility report about restarting the repair work that had been given up some time ago.

The people went in a convoy of two vehicles but there are reports to say that the two vehicles were separated in the jungle.

A Ministry of Defense statement said, “The bodies of eight personnel including two army officers who were gunned down by the LTTE terrorists on yesterday, were found by the security forces personnel who conducted a massive multi-pronged search operation at the Kokkarivillu area, 30 km north of Wilpattu Wildlife Park, this morning, Saturday the 10th of March”

The army said the killing of the personnel had taken place Friday March 9.
Last year, a group of local civilian tourists who went to the park, were also killed by the Tamil Tigers at the same spot, May 28, where the bodies were found.

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March 10, 2007 - Posted by | News and politics

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