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Archive for May 11th, 2008

The Sri Lankan Army took a heavy beating on April 23rd, in the latest of a series of thwarted assaults on the LTTE defenses on the Jaffna Peninsula. Casualties have been difficult to pin down on either side and reports from individuals and groups with military contacts can only give a range of casualties. What is clear is that this was a larger battle than most in recent history and that the LTTE came out on top, while the strategic situation on the Jaffna front has not significantly changed.

50-100 Tiger soldiers were killed in the failed attack by elements of the 53 and 55 divisions. As many as 200 have been wounded. The SLA casualties are actually harder to establish, with 100 dead at a minimum, and 185 dead at most. With “inside sources” to back every number in between, it is impossible to know the truth. What is accepted is that roughly 400 Sri Lankan troops have been wounded. No reports have been made on those who may have died of their wounds, on either side, though it is almost certain that some have succumbed to their injuries. Also lost were some Sri Lankan armored vehicles. Like all other figures from the battle, the numbers of damaged or lost vehicles varies from source to source, but including a damaged infantry fighting vehicle from the day prior to the attack, two to eight tanks and IFVs have been damaged or destroyed.

Over the years both sides have charged the other’s defenses on the Jaffna Front. Most of these attacks have ended in failure for the aggressor, often with heavy loss of life. Since 2001, several SLA attacks have been made, all ending in defeat with hundreds of casualties. It is a situation very similar to the Battle of Fredericksburg in the American Civil War. The Sri Lankan military would do well to learn the history of that battle and the actions of the Union commander, Ambrose Burnside.

Following the Confederate’s successful escape from McClellan at Sharpsburg, President Lincoln put General Burnside in command of the Union Army. Burnside moved his vastly superior force to the East Bank of the Rappahannock River. On the opposite bank was the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia and the strategically vital Marye’s Heights just beyond the town. Burnside planned to quickly cross the river, take the town, and capture the Heights before the Confederates could amass more than a skeleton garrison to defend the area. When Burnside reached the river, only 500 Confederates opposed him across the river, however, Federal troops were unable to take advantage of this numerical superiority, since they could not cross the river without pontoon boats, which had not yet arrived. Burnside refused to formulate a new strategy or objective for his army and opted to wait for the pontoon boats to arrive. It took 25 days for the pontoon boats to finally arrive and be deployed, in which time the better part of the Confederate Army had assembled West of Fredericksburg.

fredericksburg map

Map

General Robert E. Lee ordered General James Longstreet’s men to defend Marye’s Heights, which made up the Northern half of the battlefield, while General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson defended the Southern flank made up of fields, shallow creeks, and a rail line. Despite these 72,000 Confederate reinforcements, Burnside still had twice Lee’s numbers.

When the pontoon boats finally arrived, Federal engineers braved sniper fire from Fredericksburg to construct bridges, while Union artillery and an amphibious assault devastated the town to silence the rebel gunmen. Once the bridges were complete, Burnside crossed his army in force.

Once across the river, Burnside first attacked Jackson’s force. The terrain was open, level, and neither side had permanent positions or fortifications. Burnside initially could use artillery from the opposite side of the river to support his advance, while the Confederates responded with aggressively handled horse artillery. Only two guns dueled the Union batteries for an hour, firing and moving faster than the Federals could react. A tactic the Sri Lankan military is all too familiar with. Union forces began making serious progress by mid morning and continued to push Jackson back until around 1:30. Fortunately for the Confederates, errors in coordination and insufficient numbers allowed Jackson to recover from his setbacks and counterattack, maneuvering between two Federal divisions that had become separated. The Union troops were pushed back and feared being trapped at the riverbank until additional reinforcements finally arrived and halted Jackson’s advance. The fighting cost each side around 3,400 casualties. The majority of the Confederate losses for the whole battle occurred here, while the opposite would be true for the Federals.

fredericksburg map 2

Troop movements at Fredericksburg
Burnside had squandered an opportunity to win the battle and defeat the legendary Jackson. Had the Federals put serious emphasis on Jackson, who had little artillery support, and no dug in positions, and attacked with the bulk of the Union Army, the Confederates would have had no means to hold the line against such a large force. Marye’s Heights would have been flanked and Lee would have had to abandon his ideal defensive position or be surrounded. Instead, Burnside shifted his focus to Longstreet’s dug in soldiers on the Heights.

Longstreet had the bulk of the Rebel artillery supporting his troops and had his infantry amassed along a sunken dirt road with a stone wall along one side. The result was a natural trench that gave excellent cover to his men while still allowing them a full range of fire. His concentration of force made any attempt to dislodge him an act of suicide. It seemed that everyone understood this, except Burnside. Confederate artillerist Edward Alexander bragged to Longstreet that, “not even a chicken could live in that field when we open upon it.”

Burnside Dedicated six divisions to taking the Heights, charging the Rebel position 16 times, usually in one-brigade charges. Although Longstreet was outnumbered, he held the high ground, was supported by artillery, and was well dug in. Each charge was easily repulsed with serious Union losses. It is here that the famous charge of the Irish Brigade was made. Advancing to within 50 feet of the stone wall, the 1,600 men of that fateful unit were cut to pieces by Confederate Irish troops of the Georgian Legion and only 256 men managed to escape. This courageous, but futile assault is made famous in the movie “Gods and Generals.”
1,200 Confederates were killed or wounded defending Marye’s Heights. Over 10,000 Federals fell trying to dislodge them. It was one of the most one-sided victories of the war. Burnside had bungled the entire campaign, but the final cause of his defeat wasn’t his inaction before the battle. It was his refusal to concentrate his forces where Lee was weakest and instead threw his army against the most secure piece of real estate in the Confederacy.

Sri Lanka would do well to remember Fredericksburg. The SLA needs to launch a major offensive, no doubt, but the location of such an offensive is as important as the action itself. Just as Burnside had a choice between Marye’s Heights and the open terrain to the South of the battlefield, the Sri Lankan military has a choice between the bottleneck of the Jaffna Front, and the wide-open Southern Fronts.

(History and War)

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Karuna Amman alias Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan , the former leader of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) has been released from a British jail and detained in an immigration centre, May 8.

British Home Ministry source said, “ He is detained under immigration powers of the government.”
It is customary for the British authorities to request the Sri Lanka High Commission in London to issue temporary travel documents for him to be deported to Sri Lanka. Those travel documents are different from a passports and a limited to a piece of paper carrying the photograph of the traveller. Sri Lanka High Commission sources in London said so far they have not received a request for the issuance of such a document from the British Home Office.

He fled to Britain, where his wife Vidhyawathie and her three children are living in London and got arrested, November 2 2007 for travelling with a forged diplomatic passport. He was later convicted on the offence and spent time in the jail.

Political analysts say the breakaway of Colonel Karuna, the man who was in charge of the Eastern Province under the LTTE was the beginning of the end of the Tamil terrorist outfit. After his departure the LTTE lost the sprawling Eastern Province to Sri Lanka government security forces. Karuna’s departure is believed to have supplied a pot of gold in intelligence to the Sri Lankan forces to drive away the Tamil Tigers from the province.

During his days under the LTTE he is believed to have carried out the most ruthless commands of his then leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. His child soldiers supplied a constant source of manpower to the LTTE and he once ordered to kill 600 Sinhala and Muslim police officers point-blank in Nazi style, in the Eastern Province jungles of Thirukkovil, after they surrendered to him. Much of the large amount of money Karuna is supposed to have brought from Sri Lanka is believed to have been invested with the help of a Tamil activist living in London owning some Hindu temples and operating with India’s RAW concerning Sri Lankan affairs.

(more…)

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Thol. Thirumavalavan, the president of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (Liberation Panthers Party) and one of India’s foremost Dalit leaders, has expres-sed scepticism regarding the stance of the Indian government on the Sri Lankan issue. News reports in Tamil Nadu last week said RAW – the Indian intelligence group – had warned the Tamil Nadu state police to be vigilant of potential infiltration of Karuna faction members into the south Indian state.

Referring to those reports Thirumaval-avan in a statement issued last week said: “There are reports that the Indian intelligence wing has cautioned Tamil Nadu police of Karuna faction who is functioning in connivance with the Sri Lankan government conspiring to infiltrate into Tamil Nadu and abduct political leaders of the state in order to put the blame on the LTTE”.

“Whenever the Sri Lankan forces suffer severe loss at the hands of the LTTE, generally one can observe significant political moves taking place in India too. Hundreds of Sri Lankan forces lost their lives in Muhamalai battle last week. It is in this context that the RAW has issued such a warning,” said Thirumavalavan.

“To date the RAW had been spreading messages through the media that there was LTTE infiltration in Tamil Nadu. Now for the first time it has shown signs of having a soft spot for the LTTE by alleging the Karuna group of planning abductions in Tamil Nadu”.

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Two hours after dawn on May 09, a powerful explosion rocked the commercial harbour of Trincomalee. As a fireball engulfed the logistic ship A 520, sailors on duty had their eyes and guns directed towards the night sky. Their first guess was that it was an air raid. It was only two weeks ago that the nascent air wing of the LTTE bombed, though largely unsuccessfully, the forward defence localities of Weli Oya.

When the confusion died down, the true picture of the incident emerged. An underwater explosion had ripped through a navy logistical ship, A 520, aka MV Invincible which was anchored in the Ashraff Jetty. The ship took the full brunt of the blast and in two hours, it went under water.

The attack is unlikely to have an impact on the capabilities of the SLN, but a sense of confusion prevailed over the nature of the attack.
It is highly likely that the attack was carried out by Black Tiger frogmen using magnetic sea mines which can be attached to the hull of ship.

Abortive attempt

It must be recalled that two LTTE frogmen were arrested on June 17, 2006 in an abortive attempt to blow up vessels berthed in the Colombo port using magnetic sea mines.

As recently as March 22 this year, the Dvora Fast Attack craft P 438 was blown up in a mystery blast – as the Navy described it – in the seas off Nayaru. Later, the rescue teams recovered parts of a magnetic mine in the vicinity of the blast.

There are concerns also as to whether the sea Tigers used an underwater scooter in the mission.

There were reports, dating back to as early as 2003 that the LTTE was looking for underwater scooters, which are commonly used for recreation activities and easily available through a web search. In April 2003, the LTTE agents negotiated to procure 34 sets of underwater scooters from Denmark.
A majority of the scooters are lightweight contraptions (15-20 kg), which could give an underwater speed of upto 1- 3 knots and could stay underwater at considerable depths for upto more than an hour. Using this device, a trained diver could easily remain underwater in the vicinity; carry enough explosives strapped on one’s person and carry out limited manoeuvres to and explode next to a patrol vessel without being spotted.
Though the scooters could not be used against FACs, given the latter’s superior speed, they can be used against vessels when they are anchored.
The ill-fated A 520, built in 1970, was formerly a cargo vessel which was seized by the Navy when it was transporting illegal migrants. The court handed over the ship to the Navy which converted it into a logistical ship.
The China Bay Naval harbour is guarded by a protective explosive net to fend off the sea Tiger frogmen.

However, the security precautions at the commercial harbour are generally lax.

Loss

The loss of A 520 is unlikely to have an impact on the Navy’s defence capabilities, yet, the attack and an earlier sinking of the P 438 off Nayaru had underscored that the sea Tigers have become increasingly innovative in their strategy. Needless to say, that the recent attacks are food for thought for the military top brass.

Meanwhile, pro LTTE Tamilnet website reported that Tiger “Commandos from Kangkai Amaran unit of the Sea Tigers took part in Saturday’s mission,. The unit was named after a senior commander of the Sea Tigers killed by Sri Lankan Army Deep Penetration Unit on 29 June 2001 in an attack in the Mannaar district”.

Navy Commander Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda had disclosed at a recent National Security Council meeting that due to the regular attacks by the Navy, the Sea Tiger fleet had been reduced to four indigenously built “Muraj” Fast Attack Craft, which is the sea Tiger’s equivalent to the Navy’s Dvora and sixteen suicide boats. However, some senior security forces commanders have a different opinion about sea Tiger capabilities.
It is understood that the May 09 attack was part of a greater plan to sabotage the provincial council vote in the East. The blast took place hours after a parcel bomb explosion killed 12 civilians and injured over 30 in Ampara. There are reports of LTTE attempts to infiltrate the East.
Late last month, police arrested a female suicide bomber, who confessed that she had been sent to assassinate a VIP during the run-up to the elections. She had told investigators that she arrived from the Wanni in a fishing boat. During the same period, the Army recovered an explosive laden brazier, which contained 3 kg of explosives and believed to have been brought to use against a VIP.
There is also intelligence warnings that the Tigers are planning to execute a sea landing in Kiran in the Batticaloa District. Thus, the security forces were kept on alert. There are also reports that the LTTE is attempting to dispatch Keerthi, the former intelligence leader of Ampara. According to military intelligence sources, the army had successfully dismantled the LTTE’s communication network in the East. Hence the decision to send Keerthi to re-establish Tiger cells in the East.
On Tuesday (06), troops confronted a team of Tiger cadres in Meegasgodalla, Sittaru in the Trincomalee District.
The Army said troops attacked a four-member team of LTTE cadres, killing two of them. Two bodies of the slain Tiger cadres were recovered. It is believed that the team of LTTE cadres was a part of a much larger team sent to disrupt election activities in the region.
These developments are taking place as the Eastern Province voted in a keenly contested election. Election Day was marred by shelling of a remote village of Pannalagama in the Ampara District by the LTTE. Four civilians were injured.

The developments in the East could divert the attention from the Wanni front where troops are inching deeper into the Tiger hinterland.

Sporadic clashes

On Friday, the 58 Division entered the city centres of Adampan after weeks of sporadic clashes at the periphery of the town where troops had been camped for over a month.

The Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) reported that at least fifteen LTTE cadres were killed in the clashes and that two soldiers were killed while seven were wounded.

The fall of Adampan, from where the Tigers offered stiff resistance to advancing troops have now made the sea Tiger base in Vedithalthivu vulnerable. This is a major launching pad and a smuggling port on the north western coast.

An estimated 2779 civilians lived under the Adampan Assistant Government Agent (AGA) Division in the Mannar District Secretariat, according to the 1981 Census. Five hundred and sixty-four (564) housing units of the civilians and thirty-two (32) other buildings including those of the State were located in the area, according to the same census.

On the same day, fierce fighting broke up in the Alankulam area as troops captured an area of the size of one square kilometre in Alankulam. One soldier was killed and five others were classified as missing in action. The pro LTTE Tamilnet website reported the LTTE spokesman Irasaiyah Ilantharian as saying that the LTTE had recovered seven bodies of soldiers after fierce clashes in the same area.Five soldiers were wounded in the clash.

During the same week, troops of the 57 Brigade captured the Palampiddy Bridge. According to military sources, the Tigers were taken by surprise by the sudden attack, which forced them to vacate the bridge without putting up a fight. Jeyam, a senior Tiger leader who has been assigned to fend off troop advance into the Mannar sector, had been heard on intercepted communications, instructing Tiger cadres to blow up the bridge.
From the other side, the reply came that the defending Tiger cadres were taken by surprise and hence they had to make a hasty retreat.

According to military sources, the Tigers have largely evaded confrontations in recent weeks. “When they put up a fight, it is to take time for withdrawal,” said a military official.

According to military sources, Tigers were digging a trench in Pallamadu area to fend off the military advance further into the Wanni
Heavy vehicles have also been used in the task, according to military sources.The LTTE strategy appears to be to cut off access routes to Vedithalthivu.

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Prologue:

December 1999 marked the beginning of the ‘Unceasing waves’ of the LTTE. Killinochchi was captured and they were moving on to Paranthan. Air Force ground troops were stationed at the Paranthan FDL to provide land support for the Army troops and the Air Force aircraft were on the ready at Palali Air Force base to provide air cover.

On December 17, MI 24 CH-618 was dispatched under the command of Squadron Leader Tyron Silvapulle with Flying Officer Chinthaka Prashan De Soysa as the co-pilot and two other gunners to provide close air support to the Army troops deployed at the FLD in Vettilaikerny lagoon.

Date: December 18, 1999
Time: 0700 hours
Location: Air Force Camp, Palali FDL

“I was having my breakfast when I heard the sirens.” Flying Officer S. P. V. K. Senadheera recalled, who had joined the Air Force with the 11th intake of the KDA (Kotalawala Defence Academy) in 1993 and graduated as a Cadet Officer in 1995.

He was posted to China Bay and was trained at Diyatalawa the same year and commissioned in 1996. He was deployed in the Air Force FDL, during the “Jayasikuru Operation” , as a Squadron Commander of the Regiment Field Squadron. Vajira Senadheera is married to a sister of an Air Force officer.

The sirens are normally sounded to indicate an air crash. “I was not told of any specific details at that time.” But later, on inquiry, he learned that MI 24 CH-618 – which was piloted by Squadron Leader Tyron Silvapulle, co-piloted by Flying Officer Chinthaka Prashan De Soysa and carried the two gunners – was hit by an enemy missile and had crashed into the no man’s land of Vettilaikerni lagoon.

It was immediately decided to deploy ten people, for the rescue operation, under the leadership of Flying Officer Vajira Senadheera along with a team of ten technicians led by Flying Officer Thotahevage. An MI 17 was ready to airlift them to the Army camp at Elephant Pass.

0830 hrs: They were provided with a dinghy by the Army, on arrival at the Elephant Pass Camp, but the entire team of more than twenty could not be accommodated. “ So, I selected one gunner and Flying Officer Thotahevage selected three from the technical crew.” All the men who could swim.

0845 hrs: The crash site was in Thamilmadam, a small island in the no man’s land of the lagoon. It had rained heavily for several days forcing the lagoon to swell. The LTTE Sea Tigers operating in the FDL had monitored the dinghy boat and commenced fire. The Army counter-attacked with artillery and mortar from the main land. The whole team was fully soaked by the time they reached the crash site.

The wreck was half submerged in water, requiring assistance of two Naval divers for the salvage. The LTTE tried to reach the island but were not able to, due to repulsive attcks by the Army.

It was clear that there were no survivors but there were still some vital components, in the MI 24, that needed extraction and meanwhile the bodies were moved to the Elephant Pass Army camp by boat.

1030 hrs: It was still raining heavily and the LTTE action had considerably lessened when the team moved into their second mission – retrieving the vital parts of the helicopter. Subsequently the wreck was blown up with the assistance of the Army Demolition Unit.

1700 hrs: The team was able to reach Elephant Pass camp, with the salvaged items, despite continuous shelling by LTTE Sea Tigers. They spent the night at the Iyakachchi SL Light Infantry Camp due to bad weather. That very night Paranthan was captured by the LTTE.

Epilogue:

Date: December 19, 1999
Time: 0700 hours
Location: SL Light Infantry Camp, Iyakachchi

Although Flying Officer Vajira Senadheera contacted the Palali Base and requested for an MI 17, due to the large volume of casualties arriving from Paranthan, the team had to give priority to the transportation of casualties and to let the MI 17 be used for that purpose, time and again. Finally they returned safely to Palali Air Force Base, with the salvaged items, by land on Army trucks which were ferrying ammunition.

Dedication:

The two pilots Squadron Leader Tyron Silvapulle and Flying Officer Chinthaka Prashan De Soysa were brave pilots, deployed on many sorties to assist the Army troops at the Paranthan FDL and many other attacks beforehand.

According to his colleagues, Squadron Leader Tyron Silvapulle was an extremely dedicated pilot. Enlisted on May 18, 1986, he flew literally round-the-clock ‘morning, noon and night’, on countless missions, until his death.

According to one of his batchmates “he was a professional pilot, a genuine, down-to-earth person, who was serious about his job as a pilot. He was concerned about the guys in the field, his colleagues in the Army.

A product of St Joseph’s College, he served continuously in the northern and eastern fronts since the day he joined the service with the 16th Intake. He has flown Bell 212, MI 17 and MI 24 helicopters.” He was married and his wife was expecting a child at the time of his death.

He had won several awards to his credit. In addition to all the standard campaign Medals, he was awarded Rana Wickrama and Rana Sura Gallantry Medals in 1994. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Wing Commander.

According to one of his flying instructors, who himself was an MI 24 pilot, Flying Officer Chinthaka Prashan De Soysa, who was enlisted on January 07, 1997, was a very soft spoken guy, very well mannered with very good piloting skills. He was a born pilot.

That was why he was posted to MI 24 by-passing the usual stint at flying Bell 212. He was the youngest pilot in the squadron at the time of his demise.

Flying Officer Vajira Senadheera, who had won many other awards for bravery while serving in the North and East was awarded a Rana Sura Medal in 2008 for salvaging sensitive material from the wreck, preventing them from falling in to enemy hands. He was later promoted a Squadron Leader.

(Sunday Observer)

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The people of this country by this morning would have heard the final results of the Eastern Provincial Council elections, which was headed to a close in a successful note by yesterday evening at the time this newspaper was going to press.

The peace loving people in the Eastern province witnessed all aborted attempts by the LTTE to have their say against the election. There were only a few incidents that the LTTE could accomplish but thousands of their attempts were foiled by the vigilant Security Forces and the Police operating in the East.

However, at the last moment when they felt that they no longer have a say in the Eastern province and all their attempts to sabotage the election have failed, it exposed its desperation on Friday evening and in the wee hours of Saturday.

The cowardly bomb blast inside ‘New City Café’ in Ampara, which killed 12 people and injured 31 and the sinking of a Naval vessel at Ashroff Jetty in Trincomalee in a predawn attack were two desperate attempts by the LTTE to get their name in the international media at the date of the election.

Having understood their inability to convince the Eastern people of their view in a democratic means and to get the Eastern masses to boycott the elections, the LTTE wanted at least to give the impression to the international community that they too still have a say in the Eastern province.

Their attempt was to add at least a single line in the news reports on the Eastern polls that the election was conducted amidst bomb blasts and terror acts of the LTTE. But nothing could prevent the Eastern people from exercising their democratic right to elect their own representatives to run their own administration in the East.

This column very clearly explained last week how the LTTE was preparing to sabotage the election in the East. Now it is clear that the teams who had infiltrated into the Eastern province had waited till the last moment to accomplish their strategy to sabotage the election.

No significant impact

It was after all arrangements were made to transport ballot boxes to the respective polling stations, the bomb was exploded in Ampara at 5.40 p.m. However, that bomb explosion could not make any significant impact in the minds of the people to distance them from the election process.

Even the sinking of the logistic vessel A-520 which was berthed at Ashroff Jetty in an underwater explosion could not make any impact either on the election process or the Naval capabilities.

The entire Trincomalee city which was in deep silence was shaken around two o’clock in the morning due to the sudden explosion. The ship had engulfed in a massive fire soon after the explosion giving a clear idea to the people of this port city what had exactly happened due to the blast.

The Sri Lanka Navy claims that the ship was empty and there were no people inside the ship at the time it was exploded. It was around six in the morning when the damaged vessel sank in the sea.

The Navy is still conducting investigations as to what exactly happened. But initial investigations have confirmed that there had been no possibility of sending a suicide boat or any other device on the surface to cause this explosion.

Investigations also directed to see whether the LTTE had used any divers to set a sea mine into the ship and then blast the ship using a remote control device. The possibilities of using a sea mine to explode the vessel is very high considering the location of the Ashraff Jetty.

The LTTE would have had an ideal opportunity to make use of a land route to reach close to the ship taking cover of the jungle patches surrounding the harbour and set mines using divers as the Ashraff Jetty is located close to civilian settlements, especially Tamil populated areas in Trincomalee.

Search operations are now on in Trincomalee to detect suspicious elements in and around the harbour.

Converted vessel

According to Navy the ill fated vessel, A-520, was a merchant vessel built in 1970s and handed over to the Sri Lankan Navy, following a court order after it was apprehended while transporting 254 illegal migrants off Tangalle in 2003.

Later, this 60 foot long ship had been converted into a logistic ship and used for logistic transport. It had been berthed there at the Ashraff Jetty since it could not be taken to the Naval harbour.

However it has been revealed that the attention of the Sri Lanka Navy had been fully drawn towards deep sea security drawing lesser attention towards a possible enemy attack from the land side. Therefore, the LTTE had taken this chance to accomplish its terror operation since it is an extremely difficult task for them to engage the Navy in deep sea battles.

But the Tiger outfit though reached some limited objectives through this attack, they could not reach the full objective as they could not reduce the logistic capabilities of the Navy.

However, its cowardly mortar attack on a Sinhalese settlement in Pannalgama, Bakmitiyawa in Damana could create a kind of a disturbance to the smooth process of conducting elections yesterday morning.

Four people including a woman and child sustained injuries as the LTTE fired seven mortars at the Pannalgama civilian settlement.

According to Damana Police, an injured civilian was rushed to the Tottama rural hospital. Security has been tightened in the area as combined Army and Police search teams were dispatched to the scene.

Pannalgama is located approximately 25km South East of Damana.

Going through these series of incidents the LTTE had shrewd enough in selecting two ethnically sensitive districts to carry out their terror campaign especially aiming at the elections. It had failed in all their terror operations in the Batticaloa district as their presence can be detected by their rival factions within this district.

However, the LTTE attempt to sabotage the elections went in drain as nearly 40 per cent of voters turned out at polling stations by 12 noon yesterday. The highest voter turnout has been reported from the Trincomalee district.

Apart from this one of the important factors that compelled the LTTE to go for this type of desperate terror tactics were the fall of their strategically important locations in the Wanni and the loss of their first defence line in Jaffna prior to the conduct of the Eastern Provincial Council election.

The Wanni battle

The fall of Adampan town to the hands of the Security Forces hurt the LTTE very much. That was why they had repeated the strategy they adopted when Madhu was captured by the Security Forces on April 24.

The LTTE leadership gave orders to the Tiger cadres operating in the South to blast a bomb inside a crowded bus in Piliyandala after Madhu was captured by the Security Forces.

In same manner they must have given instructions to cause similar types of damage to the civilians, this time with another major objective, to blast a parcel bomb in Ampara.

It was in a surprise move that the 58 Division operating in the Mannar front under the command of Brigadier Shavendra de Silva surrounded this strategic junction town Adampan which is the most important town in the ‘Mannar Rice’ bowl.

The Security Forces wanted to avoid confrontation within this city which was filled with booby traps and land mines.

It was with the objective of capturing the Adampan town the troops of the 58 Division fixed the enemy with cutting off the town from the West and the South.

The 8 Gemunu Watch battalion under the 58 Division cut off the supply route from the West (from Manthai side) and capturing more than half of the Adampan tank area (from the South of Adampan) amidst heavy rains.

This reporter met some of the soldiers who were operating within Admapan tank area closely monitoring what was going inside Adampan town.

The troops from the West were operating just 800 metres away from the Adampan town and from the South the troops were operating some 1 Km south of Adampan.

Adampan was the pride of the LTTE in the Mannar battlefront since troops had control of this city only for few months during the Jayasikuru operation. At many occasions troops had to face defeats at the hands of the LTTE in their attempt to capture this strategic town in the ‘Mannar Rice Bowl’.

As Security Forces knew that the LTTE was going to use full force in defending this town they avoided confrontations in this sector. Instead they cut off routes to Adampan from various directions but kept the East open for the LTTE.

Just two days prior to the capture of Adampan town, troops dominating the positions in the South of Adampan tank moved across an open terrain from South to East direction fully capturing the Adampan tank area and East of Adampan.

It was on Friday morning that troops attached to 8 Sinha Regiment launched an offensive operation to capture Alankulam area.

The LTTE thought that the troops were planning to capture Alankulam area and used their full force to defend Alankulam area. As heavy fighting continued in Alankulam area troops attached to 8 Gemunu Watch battalion entered to Adampan town.

It was around 2.30 a.m. in the morning the 8 GW troops entered Adampan town. The Second-in-Command of the 8 GW battalion Major Nishan Hamidan commanded the troops to capture Adampan town.

The Tiger cadres operating there in Adampan never expected the troops to enter Adampan from the Eastern since the troops had not touched the Eastern part of Adampan for the past two and half months.

So the LTTE had no major defences established in the Eastern direction. As fierce battles continued in Alankulam by the first light of Friday morning, 8 GW troops fully captured the Adampan town.

The operation was completed by the time Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka landed in Sri Lanka after completing his six days official visit to Pakistan. The Commander had expressed gratitude to the troops for capturing this strategically important location in the Mannar Rice Bowl.

Meanwhile troops operating under the 57 Division in Vavuniya under the command of Major General Jagath Dias also captured the strategic Palampiddi Bridge this week in yet another surprise attack on the LTTE clearing a major obstacle in the troops effort to capture Palampiddi junction.

With these developments after the capture of Madhu shrine area the Wanni battle is now completing one of the biggest tasks. Amidst this situation it has been reported that the LTTE is now withdrawing from some of their positions in the Wanni to construct another defence line at least to defend their territories in the heart of Wanni.

But due to the shortage of manpower and logistic support, it will become a difficult task for the LTTE, as they will have to face the next step of the battle along with the civilians as huge protests are now springing from the civilian point of view against the tyrannical rule of Prabhakaran in Wanni.

(more…)

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The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), the political party which is transforming itself from an armed group to a party contesting elections released 39 child soldiers to a Government led rehabilitation program and restricted its armed recruits to the interior forest in the Eastern Province and they no longer travel in public carrying guns.

The UN body also reported that Sivasuntharai Chandrakanthan, the TMVP leader has pledged publicly that he would not allow any child recruitment to the group.

The following is the UN report:

“The Karuna faction, the Tamil Tiger breakaway group, which has been transforming itself from an armed military group into a political party, released 39 underage recruits last month.

“The group, officially known as the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal (TMVP) released 28 children on April 24 after 11 were released on April 11.

“The TMVP was formed by the former eastern military commander of the LTTE. Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan, alias Karuna, after he broke away from the Tigers in April 2004. It now controls all nine local governing divisions in its native Batticaloa district in eastern Sri Lanka following a clean sweep in elections on March 10 and contested the Eastern Provincial Council election yesterday as a coalition partner of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance.

“The TMVP is now led by Karuna’s chief lieutenant Sivasuntharai Chandrakanthan, alias Pillayan, the party’s candidate for the Chief Minister of the province, who was taken pains to rehabilitate the party’s image.

In addition to the release of children into a Government-led rehabilitation program supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), it has restricted its armed members to camps in the interior forests in the eastern province or inside its compounds in more populated areas and they no longer travel in public carrying arms.

The TMVP told IRIN it had voluntarily decided to release the children, who it said had sought protection. “We never gave these children armed training, they came to us for protection.” TMVP spokesperson Azad Moulana told IRIN. “There were 48 children under the age of 16 with us and we have released 39 so far. We will release the rest before the eastern election,” he said.

However, according to a UNICEF database, 76 recruits younger than 18 are still with the TMVP, down from 131 end March.

UNICEF has intensified its monitoring mechanism recently, according to the agency’s officials in Colombo. UNICEF officials visited and interviewed families of child recruits remaining with the TMVP to verify each case. “We absolutely verified every single case in the books by visiting the families,” said Gordon Weiss. UNICEF chief of communications in Sri Lanka.

“A year back there was a lot of fighting (in the East) and families reported their children being forcibly recruited,” said Weiss. “Now there is no fighting and our hope is that there is a genuine change in policy by the TMVP on child recruitment.” Chandrakanthan had told campaign meetings that the party would not engage in underage recruitment.

“The Sri Lankan government welcomed the releases, the largest by the group, as a clear sign of the return of the rule of law to the East. “The government views the release of these children as further signs of strengthening democracy and returning to conditions of normality in areas of the Eastern Province,” said the Ministry of Human Rights and Disaster Management.

“The Government, as part of its zero-tolerance policy on the recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, has taken steps to secure the release and initiate programs of rehabilitation for children caught up in armed conflict.”

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A 70-metre long cargo vessel came under attack at 2.15 a.m. yesterday at the Naval harbour in Trincomalee. The sailors on board at the time of the attack escaped without any injury, according to Navy spokesperson Commander D. K. P. Dassanayake.

Commander Dassanayake told the Sunday Observer that when the vessel came under attack by the Sea Tigers it was anchored in the harbour and did not contain any cargo. “The vessel which weighs around 5,000 tonnes and 70 metres in length sank after the attack”, the Navy spokesperson said.

He said that this particular vessel was apprehended by the Navy in Lankan waters with 254 people on board when she was involved in human trafficking in 2003. The ship was later confiscated by the Navy following a court order. In 2005 the vessel was also badly damaged due to the tsunami waves when it was anchored in Galle in 2004. However, it was repaired and used by the Navy.

“We believe the attack was carried out by an LTTE suicide squad under water, due to frustration that it could not bring its lethal cargo into Lankan waters,” Commander Dassanayake said.

Meanwhile, police in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu seized a massive haul of explosive items in 85 gunny bags and arrested five persons who attempted to smuggle them to Sri Lanka on Wednesday. The gunny bags contained detonators, gelignite sticks, wires and various other explosive items.

The suspects who are being currently grilled by the Rameswaram police said that they were taking them to the LTTE at the time the police nabbed them on the Rameswaram high seas.

Investigations are also being carried out to track down the smuggling network that operates between the LTTE and Rameswaram despite the stringent security measures in place to prevent LTTE links with South India.

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Returning to Colombo after several years, one is struck by the military checkpoints at key crossings where visitors are waved on but young Tamil males are not.

The fortified capital is pasted with war posters-a map of Sri Lanka, with an eye in the middle and a caption: “Are you alert? If you are, your village and your country are safe.”

The media are uniformly bellicose: “Military makes advances.” “There’s no unwinnable war: Only a mission to crush terrorism.” “The LTTE must be defeated at all costs.”

The army is on the march, again, against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has been seeking independence for the northern part of the island nation.

But the latest round of the 25-year-old conflict between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils-it has already claimed 70,000 lives and sent hundreds of thousands of Tamils into exile, including Canada-is being billed as part of the worldwide war on terror.

It is not successful here either.

There are other parallels between President Mahindra Rajapaksa’s war on terror and that of George W. Bush.

“You are with us or against us” has become the operating principle in Colombo as well. The patriotism of critics is constantly questioned. Caskets coming from the front are not allowed to be filmed. Journalists and other observers are barred from the front lines. Human rights violations are brushed aside, perpetrators never prosecuted.

The United Nations says the number of “the disappeared” last year, running into hundreds, was higher than in any other country.

Human Rights Watch and other groups accuse the government and allied militias of extrajudicial killings, and of using abductions as a tool of intimidation and ransom.

Others blame security forces of raiding Tamil neighbourhoods, detaining people and subjecting them to frightening interrogations.

Yet the world doesn’t quite care.

Strategically, Sri Lanka isn’t all that important. It is not, say, Iran or Syria, routinely demonized by the U.S. and the media obedient to it. But the horror unfolding in the Sri Lankan civil war, and its broader implications for the world, including Canada, are infinitely worse.

Part of the reason for the international indifference is the LTTE.

Declared a terrorist outfit by the U.S., Canada and Europe, it was the leader in suicide bombings until the tactic was used in Israel and post-invasion Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent weeks, Tamil suicide bombers have killed scores of civilians. The Tigers also stand accused of running extortion rackets among Tamil diasporas in Toronto and elsewhere to raise funds.

It is the ordinary Tamils who are paying the price, especially those in areas not controlled by the Tigers.

“Nowhere in Sri Lanka are the Tamils safe,” a Western diplomat told me in Colombo. “What’s happening here is de facto ethnic cleansing,” as Tamils flee for India or the Middle East and beyond. “The government doesn’t seem to care if they all leave.”

Mano Ganesan, a Tamil MP who heads a civil monitoring group on disappearances, recently told Canadian High Commissioner Angela Bogdan: “The government arrests Tamils for being Tamil and they ask questions later. I hate terrorism. I don’t want bombs to go off. But that doesn’t mean the government should conduct mass arrests without even giving proof or updates to the families.”

Meanwhile, there’s no prospect of a revival of the 2002 ceasefire and the subsequent peace process led by Norway and backed by Canada.

The government wants to crush the Tigers. This has been tried before with no success. But this government is determined and deploying more resources.

The army did win back territory in the east, where local elections were held last month and provincial elections are planned for Saturday. But the troops have not made much headway in the north, which is where the Tigers have been entrenched for years.

For all the official bravado, the front line hasn’t moved for months.

In this war without an end in sight, says the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, “the humanitarian crisis is deepening, abuses of human rights by both sides are increasing and those calling for peace are being silenced.”

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