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Archive for April 14th, 2008

Sri Lankan troops, backed by artillery, gained “significant” ground in an offensive in rebel- held Mannar district, the military said, as the government seeks to end the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s control of the north.

The assault on the northwest front at the weekend killed 77 rebels and wounded at least 26, the Ministry of Defense said on its Web site, citing intercepted LTTE radio communications. The LTTE said at least 30 Sri Lankan soldiers were killed and 75 wounded when it repulsed the attacks, TamilNet reported.

The fighting came on the eve of yesterday’s New Year’s holiday in the South Asian island nation that is celebrated by both the majority Sinhalese Buddhists and minority Tamil Hindus.

Sri Lanka’s military is staging almost daily attacks on the LTTE’s estimated 7,000 fighters in the north, the last region held by the group after it lost control of the east in July. Fighting intensified after the government ended a 2002 cease- fire on Jan. 16.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government rejects LTTE demands for a separate state, saying there must be no break up of the South Asian island nation of 20 million people. Tamils make up 11.9 percent of the population and Sinhalese almost 74 percent, according to a 2001 census.

Rajapaksa, in his New Year’s message, celebrated the lifting of the LTTE’s control of Eastern Province.

`Oppressed by Terrorism’

“It is most fortunate to see the people of the east, who were oppressed by terrorism for over two decades, enjoying the New Year happily with their families,” he said.

Sri Lanka held local council elections in Eastern Province last month that were won by a pro-government party formed by a breakaway rebel faction. The ballot was the first in the region in 14 years.

The government is seeking $1.8 billion in aid to help rebuild the province and bring investment and tourists to the region that has a 426-kilometer (265-mile) coastline.

The army seized eight LTTE bunkers in an April 12 offensive, the ministry said in a statement. LTTE forces in the frontlines struggled because their commanders failed to send reinforcements, it said, citing the radio intercepts.

The LTTE, designated a terrorist group by the U.S., the European Union and India, has been fighting for a separate Tamil homeland for 25 years in a conflict that has killed more the 70,000 people. Rajapaksa’s government accused the Tamil Tigers of using the 2002 truce to boost their forces and plan attacks.

(Bloomberg)

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Fighting reported in Mannar and Madu areas

LTTE cadres in the frontlines were in a desperate situation

On a day of fierce fighting, as per the Sri Lanka military, at least 79 cadres of the LTTE and 13 of its troops were killed and dozens others injured on Sunday in continuing battles along the Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) in the north.

Going by the death toll given by the military and the Tigers, it is one of the bloodiest days of fighting in recent weeks.

The pro-LTTE TamilNet put the death of soldiers at 30 and said that a further 75 were injured.

A statement by the Defence Ministry issued here said that Sri Lanka Army (SLA) infantrymen backed by artillery ‘gained a significant area of ground’ by driving off the Tiger cadres on the Mannar front further into the Wanni ‘non-liberated areas.’

“As troops commenced their military onslaught early in the morning, day-long fighting was reported from Kattankulam, Udaiyadi, Munkilmurichchan, Ilantaivan areas. Also, snipers deployed in the Puliyankulam Malikaittidal, Vannakulam, Parayakulam and Ittikandal, claimed gunning down of 7 LTTE cadres,” the Ministry said.

Quoting ‘intercepted radio transmissions,’ the military claimed that 77 Tiger cadres were killed and at least 26 injured on the Mannar front alone.

It said 12 soldiers died in the battle while 29 were injured.

The Ministry claimed that during these operations, eight LTTE bunkers located at various positions on the battlefront came under the army’s control. During the search operations the body of an LTTE cadre was found.

“LTTE cadres in the frontlines were in a desperate situation in the face of military advance as the terrorists’ leaders, leading the battle from the back, failed to send sufficient reinforcements. Terror leaders Bhanu, Lakshman, Selvi and Ramesh were heard in the radios from their command posts miles behind the frontlines pleading their reserves in Palamodai area to move forward but failed as the junior cadres refused to comply,” the Ministry claimed.

Quoting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) military spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan, TamilNet claimed that at least 30 SLA soldiers were killed and 75 wounded when the LTTE’s ‘defensive formations’ in Mannar confronted a four-pronged SLA attempt to advance west of Giant’s Tanks in Mannar.

The website said that Tigers lost three cadres in the fighting that lasted from 5.30 a.m. till 1.30 p.m. “The SLA continued to target Madu area with artillery and mortar fire and sporadic clashes were reported west of Thadcha’naamaruthamadu, according to Tiger military spokesman,” it said.

The military further said that troops engaged in `limited counter terrorist offensives’ in the Jaffna theatre of operations claimed that at least two Tiger cadres were killed and 5 bunkers destroyed in day’s clashes in the Muhamalai area.

Mine explosion

It said two soldiers were injured when the LTTE cadres fired mortars at the security forces FDL in the Muhamalai. Another soldier suffered serious injuries due to a mine explosion.

The Defence Ministry said that a soldier was killed and another suffered injuries when an LTTE cadre lobbed a hand-grenade at an Army picket at Malesandi in Jaffna district. The incident occurred around 1.15 p.m. while the soldiers were providing security for the people going to Nelliadi town.

(The Hindu)

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LTTE supremo Prabhakaran was quite regular in attending the training camps of the Tamil Tigers and used to personally supervise their programmes, a surrendered activists of the banned organisation has said. Arumugam (named changed) told a team of visiting journalists at a fortified building in Jaffna that houses the former LTTE cadres that the LTTE chief was quite regular in attending training camps and used to personally supervise their programmes.

“I worked for the LTTE for almost six years and was classified as a Black Sea Tiger,” Arumugam told the journalists. The former rebel said he is still petrified by prospects of an attack on him by the LTTE for having deserted the organisation.

“I have already lost a portion of my leg,” Arumugam said, displaying the injury he suffered during a confrontation with the Sri Lankan security forces. The camp, to which the visiting journalists were taken around earlier this week, had 54 surrendered men, many of them former supporters and sympathisers of the outfit.

A top military official said the camp was well protected and there were layers of cordon that one had to go through to enter the area.

When asked whether he had seen Prabhakaran, Arumugam hesitatingly said he had watched him from close distance though never got an opportunity to talk to the LTTE leader. “He (Prabhkaran) generally does not discuss with individual LTTE fighters and prefers to address the activists jointly,” the former LTTE cadre said.

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Lt.Col.Jagath Ratnayake, Commander of the 4th Gemunu Watch division of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) responsible for the Forward Defense Lines (FDLs) at Muhamaalai was seriously injured by sniper fire of the Liberation Tigers, Sinhala daily Lankadeepa reported. The Commander was first transported by Military helicopter to Palaali Military Hospital, and later transferred to Colombo National Hospital, according to the same paper.

Sniper fire that hit Lt.Col. Ratnayake originated from a location 500m distance from where the Commander was standing, according to reports.

This incident follows the April 8th sniper fire incident that injured Brigadier Kamal Gunaratne, the Commander of SLA 55th Division. Brigadier Gunaratne was hit by snipers from within LTTE controled area near the Muhamaalai FDL while the Brigadier was engaged in war preparations.

(Tamilstar)

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Security forces have been successful in eliminating about 2,517 LTTE cadres within the last three months, Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told The Nation.

It is estimated that, there were around 5,000 fighting cadres in the LTTE at the beginning of this year. According to Brigadier Nanayakkara, the security forces had killed 834 LTTE fighting cadres in January and another 874 cadres were killed during February, while 678 LTTE cadres were killed last month. Another 131 LTTE cadres were killed by troops by April 4.

Brigadier Nanayakkara however claimed that although they had been successful in eliminating a large number of cadres, it did not mean that they had only a few more cadres to finish off, as there was a huge possibility that the LTTE may have commenced enlisting new recruits to its cadre base.

The total strength of the three security forces, is around 200,000. In addition to this, there are around 70,000 Police personnel in the Police Department. The Army has around 150,000 personnel, while the Navy has a strength of 30,000 members, and the Air Force has a strength of about 20,000.

The basic salary of a soldier is approximately Rs.14,000 plus a ration allowance of Rs.6,374 and cost of living allowance of Rs. 2,125.

An additional sum of Rs. 2,000 to 3,000 is given to a soldier if he is in an operational area. A disturbance allowance of Rs. 30 is paid daily. Thereby, the total salary of a soldier comes to nearly Rs.33, 500.

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True to their motto Determined, Dared and Done (Adhishtanayen, Abheethawa, Aramuna kara), the largest batch of the Sri Lanka Army’s Special Forces Brigade passed out in flying colours at the Maduru Oya Special Forces Training School. A total of 309 officers and men passed out from the school at a quiet function attended by family and friends of the trainees.

The men were part of a course intake of around 600 hand selected fresh recruits into the Army. Around half of the intake were unable to complete the grueling training which involves a physical conditioning program, compass march, confidence jump, armed and unarmed combat, survival, marksmanship, camouflage and concealment etc.

The new recruits will be enlisted to 1,2 and 3 Special Forces Regiments in due course, where they will further specialise in various chosen fields, some will even receive foreign training. Another batch of around 300 Special Forces are to pass out in August-September of this year.

Meanwhile the Maduru Oya Combat Training School (two schools) is also training around 6000 Sri Lanka Air Force ground troops following inadequacies in training highlighted in Katunayake and Anuradhapura airbase attacks. These recruits are also expected to graduate very soon.

The CTS and the Uva Kuda Oya CRTS recently trained a contingent of the Maldivian Security Forces. The Maduru Oya CTS was also home to a US Marines training program.

The few, the proud, the SLA Special Forces

The few, the proud, the SLA Special Forces

(Defencewire)

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Operation Liberation Wanni is gradually beginning to bear fruit for the military. Civilians from uncleared areas are seeking freedom in the cleared areas in the Mannar District

After the miraculous statue of Madhu Matha was removed last week, in the face of an impending military showdown, the incessant torrential rains that lashed the region for weeks, ceased!
The weather cleared up completely and so did the rain of artillery and mortar shells. For two whole days, the big guns went silent this week. There was the occasional shell fired from the cleared to the uncleared area and that was it.

The rains, of course, have resulted in boggy conditions, making ground operations difficult and the use of armour, impossible. The rains also caused mosquito-bred diseases to spread, hampering manpower on both sides.
The LTTE took possession of the Madhu Shrine area after the miraculous statue was removed to St. Xavier’s Church Thevenpiddy, close to Vellankulam in the Mannar District.

Catholic devotees in Mannar commenced a signature campaign to pressure the LTTE, as well as the government, to allow the safe return of the Madhu Matha statue. The petition was handed over to the Government Agent Mannar, A. Nicholaspillai, to be passed down to Colombo.

Church authorities blowing hot
Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph joined his fellow bishops at the Catholic Bishops Conference held in Kandy this week. The Bishops Conference last week, in a press release, appealed to the government and the LTTE to keep Madhu, a place of worship, out of the combat.

The conference this week met in Kandy and discussed the serious issues at stake, including the safety of the Madhu Matha statue, as well as the speedy return of the statue to its sylvan shrine, the occupation of the sacred area by the LTTE and the fact that troops were poised to secure it. The current Bishops’ Conference is a sequel to representations made by Mannar Bishop Joseph as well as Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila to Apostolic Pro Nuncio Archbishop Mario Zenari last week.

Judging by the restraint on the part of the two warring parties, they seem to have taken the appeal by the Bishops’ Conference seriously.

In Weli Oya, notwithstanding the conditions and diseases and Tiger resistance, including minefields and booby traps, troops made progress of sorts, advancing nearly 5 kms into Tiger-controlled territory, Janakapura north.

Fleeing Tiger conscription

Barring the Sunday (6) attack north of Madhu, where there were casualties on both sides, operations in Mannar and Vavuniya were greatly limited this week, owing to boggy conditions.

But, in the overall account, Operation Liberation Wanni is gradually beginning to bear fruit for the military. Civilians from uncleared areas are seeking freedom in the cleared areas in the Mannar District, just as they did in Vakarai and during other operations in the East.

Just like Vakarai, the LTTE is trying hard to hold back civilians but, as the area is vast, and Tiger cadres thinly spread, it is an unenviable task.

The two routes taken are via sea by boats and through the paddy fields. The safe passage by boat costs around Rs 1 lakh per person. By end March, there were just eight families accounting for 32 individuals, who arrived at the new Kalimoddai internally displaced persons (IDP) site in the Nanattan DS division, headed by Thirugnanasambanthar.

To date, some 140 families, accounting for over 500 civilians, mainly children and adults, have been registered by the District Secretariat Office.
In the Mantai West DS Division, Sudharan, who shuttles from Batticaloa, is the Divisional Secretary. Operations in this division are still progressing, even though there has been a lull in the past week or so.

Those returning from the uncleared areas are being screened by the Navy and Military Police before they are sent to the Kalimoddai Welfare Centre, a special camp run by the military. Civilians from the cleared areas are barred from visiting this camp as of now.

In the entire Mannar district, by end March, there were 6,240 internally displaced families, accounting for 23,445 IDPs, on account of military operations during the past nine months to a year.

Fishing prohibitive

On the one hand, the torrential rains destroyed much of the paddy in the Mannar rice bowl, while fishing was made difficult due to this unusual weather. This is on top of restrictions placed by the Navy for security reasons.
In recent times, fishing in the Vidattalativu area has virtually come to a standstill.

This time, it is not because of any new measures by the Navy, but because the LTTE is abducting young fishermen and conscripting them, due to severe manpower problems, as the military continues its war of attrition.
Last month, Sandiyago (28), Xavier (26) and Leonard (19), three brothers from the Pigardo family, along with Akilan Perera (21), were whisked away from a group of five Tamil fishermen off Vidatalativu.

Troops are poised to reach Vidatalativu, the last key LTTE arms supplies point. Part of the Madhu operation, as well as the operations north of Madhu was to secure the western coast to cut off supplies from South India.
Last year, troops cleared the Silawaturai area to prevent smuggling of arms and ammunition from that area.

This new wave of Tiger conscription has resulted in more civilians crossing over to cleared areas. For several months, civilians have braved military operations and remained in uncleared areas. But, they are not ready to stand conscription, particularly, at a time when the LTTE is at the receiving end, unable to stage a single major operation, as the oganisation is fighting, essentially, a defensive war.

Tigers still resilient

If this trend continues, the LTTE would find it difficult to continue its war effort. But, the Tigers have done considerably well in the face of an unprecedented military onslaught on several fronts in Mannar, Vavuniya, Weli Oya and across the Kilali-Muhamalai-Nagarkovil axis in Jaffna.

This columnist predicted long before the operations in the Wanni commenced, that it would not be a cakewalk for the security forces, as it was in the East. This is because of the LTTE’s conventional war capabilities. The LTTE, as predicted, put its artillery and mortar guns to good use, as well as used mines and booby traps to stall or delay advancing troops.

Notwithstanding all these, the troops made headway in its war of attrition and managed to take control of a few key points west of the Giant’s Tank around Parapankandal and north of it around Adampan in the Mannar area. Troops have also successfully advanced some 10 km north of Madhu, close to Pallampiddi. In the Vavuniya area too, by continuous penetration, it managed to secure a few key places.

Feeling the pressure, the LTTE is desperate to divert the attention of the troops. Hence, the various attacks in the border villages, as well as in the Anuradhapura, Moneragala and Hambantota districts.

The terrorist attacks in Colombo and the suburbs have also put the forces under heightened alert. This administration has fought the war on several fronts, not just in the northeast theatre of war, but also in Colombo. Tamil civilians face numerous difficulties and hardships, as the military is bent on ensuring the security of the Capital.

Human rights (HR) excesses have also resulted in the process and this administration, despite all the bashings internationally, has managed to fight back and even contest powerful governments and international organisations, including the world body.
The LTTE hoped that international pressure could be brought to bear on this administration, to halt the military offensives, but that has not worked.

When blocked by one quarter, the government would go to another, and return to the original quarter, when things have subsided in the first quarter.

The administration used the good offices of the United States to get the European Union (EU) to ban the LTTE. The dangers of international terrorism were played up to get foreign countries to do all in their control to expose Tiger activities and to get at the bottom of the LTTE’s international arms smuggling network.

But, since the high profile visits to Iran were made, Sri Lanka began to lose America’s support for the war on terrorism and in fact, was at the receiving end in terms of HR abuses.

Since December 26, 2007, the US diplomatic service announced a “policy of rejection of applications for licences for the export of defence articles and services to Sri Lanka.” Last month, the US State Department, in its annual report, made a scathing attack on the current administration in Sri Lanka vis-à-vis its HR record.
Sri Lanka has been facing hard times in Geneva at successive UNHRC sessions and managed to prevent a resolution.

EU’s ‘rendition’ of HR abuse

The EU is also not very pleased with the country’s HR record, and was set to end all benefits Sri Lanka would otherwise have obtained via GSP + facility it enjoyed for several years.

The EU has its own Code of Conduct on arms exports. The Code asks countries to reject licences for the export of weapons to countries that violate the observance of HR or where they could provoke [or aggravate] existing conflicts.
But, beating all these restrictions, the administration in February secured a shipment of 10,000 GRAD missiles from Slovak that has led to a major controversy that was highlighted by the BBC.

Despite the Sri Lankan Government (SLG) unilaterally abrogating the cease-fire agreement with the LTTE in January, this shipment was approved the following month.
The Economy Ministry granted a licence for the export of 10,000 missiles to the company Way Industry from Krupina.
Deputies of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia [HZDS] have expressed concern over the export of missiles to Sri Lanka, as it was contrary to the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports.

The Slovak Foreign Ministry defended its position, saying that the SLG was strengthening the country’s defence capability and what they have done was only to permit a transaction involving ammunition and not permit the use of this ammunition.
Way Industry Director Julius Mokos denied that the deal violated any laws, and said that the SLG had a right to defend itself against the Tamil Tigers. “They are the worst terrorists in the world. We should be asking where the terrorists are getting their weapons, not where the government is getting them,” the report said.

China, Pakistan friends in deed

Sri Lanka has been successfully obtaining assistance from a range of foreign governments for its military efforts. The support it has received from Pakistan and China has been immense.
Currently, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is visiting China, the second visit in 14 months.
Immediately after the last visit, US Ambassador Robert O. Blake, together with the Defence Secretary, signed the Acquisition for Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) for greater military cooperation. China has managed to dislodge Japan as the largest aid donor to Sri Lanka. President Hu Jintao assured President Rajapaksa on his current visit that China will stand by Sri Lanka in its efforts to counter terrorism.

It was only last month that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka made a successful official visit to India, securing the support of the military top brass in New Delhi to maintain the upper hand in the war on the LTTE to defeat terrorism.

The Government’s resolve to end terrorism would not weaken by Sunday’s silencing of Chief Government Whip Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, was the stern warning by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka, who vowed that operations would continue to completely eradicate LTTE terrorism.

Having exhausted all channels to get the military to stall its offensives, what the LTTE would probably want is a repeat of a southern subversion like in 1988/89 so that the forces would be divided between the north and South.
But, the ultimate goal of the LTTE is Eelam and for that it would want a UN intervention of sorts. The Government may have done a number internationally, to get the support of different groups, but has it done enough to stall a UN intervention like East Timor.

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