Sri Lanka restores mobile phones after fall of Tiger town

COLOMBO, Jan 24, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has begun restoring mobile phone services to half a million subscribers in the war-hit island’s east after lines were shut down during a battle, telephone operators said Wednesday.

The move comes after the capture of the main Tamil rebel bastion in the restive area by government forces.

The phone services in the eastern district of Batticaloa and the adjoining Trincomalee area were shut down when security forces intensified a battle to capture Vakarai, which eventually fell on Friday.

“The defence authorities asked us to resume our services from Monday, and we are in the process of restoring our network,” said a spokesman for Celltel, one of the island’s leading cellular operators.

The military wanted the networks switched off in the embattled regions to prevent Tamil Tiger rebels from using mobile phones to coordinate their attacks against security forces, the operators said.

Military officials said the situation in the area was returning to normal and took a group of photographers there to show that security forces had taken Vakarai.

The guerrillas had administered the area for over 10 years.

Some 500,000 subscribers were affected by the closure o