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DateLine Sunday, 23 March 2008

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STF removed from East to reinforce Wanni battlefronts

The government said yesterday that thousands of Police Commandos had been deployed to areas in the Jaffna, Wanni and Weli Oya battlefronts to strengthen the ongoing military offensives in those areas.

The Opposition accused the government of moving the elite Special Task Force (STF) personnel from the East claiming that it was a politically motivated decision and that it was unreasonable to move the STF which maintained security in the region.

Denying these allegations, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told the Sunday Observer that it was a fabricated rumour aimed at discrediting the government and the ongoing military offensives.

He said that only 25 per cent of STF personnel were re-assigned to the most vulnerable areas in the North and those STF camps would not be closed.

According to the Defence Secretary, the Sri Lanka Army will now take over the camps occupied by the STF.

He said as the battle against the LTTE terrorists has intensified in the Northern front, the Government has decided to make maximum use of the fighting capabilities of those elite troops in the battlefronts.

" They were well trained and given more facilities compared to other Forces. It is a disadvantage to keep them in areas where the terrorist threats are comparatively low",he said. He said that the security situation in the Eastern region had returned to normalcy and there was no need to keep the Police Commandos there.

" As the UNP alleges, even if TMVP or Pillaiyan wants the STF to move out, they would prefer to see them out of Batticaloa, where their stronghold lies.

What benefit would the TMVP get by the STF moving out of Ampara, where there are more Sinhalese and Muslims living?", he said.

Rajapaksa said that this was not a sudden move but it was decided in consultation with Field Commanders in the area and also in the Northern battlefront.

According to the Defence Secretary, with the re-deployment of the STF in the Northern areas it will assist the military to deploy more army personnel to the battlefront to intensify the combat operation in the North.

He reiterated that the transfer of STF personnel was not due to any request by a political party but solely to facilitate security. Meanwhile, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) in a statement said that the re-deployment of Forces on considerations of troop levels, requirements, exigencies of service and ground realities are considered routine for the police.

Denying the allegation that this move has been made at the instigation of the TMVP, it further stated that the accusation is fabricated and distorted.

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