Battle for Kilinochchi on its last legs
Bloody battles broke up south of Kilinochchi last week as the Tigers offered stiff resistance to the troops pushing into the de-facto capital of Tamil Eelam. Troops beefed up operations in the last leg of the mission to take control of Kilinochchi when rainy weather conditions temporarily improved. But that was short -lived and heavy rains lashed the Wanni front throughout the last week.
The stiff resistance the troops had to face was predictable enough. Fighting broke up in Puthumurrippukulam west of Kilinochchi as troops tried to overrun an earth bund located on the avenue of the approach of the troops attached to the 7 Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI), who were heading towards Kilinochchi from South of Adampan village.
On Wednesday, troops tried to overrun the fortified earth bund and pitched battles broke out. Fighting lasted for the next 24 hours. Troops came under heavy machine gunfire from the Tigers holding entrenched positions on the earth bund. Troops came under mortar and artillery attack. The Air Force was called in for close air support to target artillery and mortar positions. Twenty three soldiers were killed in stiff fighting and 56 soldiers were wounded. Twelve bodies of slain soldiers fell into the hands of the LTTE.
Later in the day, bitter fighting broke up along the earth bund between the 57 division and LTTE cadres holding positions. Troops of the 8 CLI, 10 CLI and 16 Singha Regiment, all attached to the 574 brigade overran a 3 km long stretch of the earth bund running from Akkarayankulam to Terumurikandy after heavy fighting.
Having overrun the Tiger earth bund, they advanced 4 km towards Kilinochchi.
Later in the week, Terumurikandy junction, which is located 4 km south of Iranamadu, fell into the hands of the troops .
Heavy fighting reigned in the area throughout the week. Sustained multiple rocket fire and air attacks targeted Tiger positions. Troops said 27 LTTE cadres were killed in fighting; however, these reports could not be independently verified.
Heavy rains which lashed on the Wanni front have further complicated military operations. Rainy weather compelled the Air Force to cut down the number of sorties.
However, as weather conditions improved, the Air Force resumed air strikes yesterday, providing close air support to the troops of the 57 Division and Task Force one.
Air Force fighter jets carried out six sorties in the morning, targeting LTTE positions in the south of Kilinochchi and West of Paranthan.
On Sunday, the Tigers launched a series of counter- attacks at the troops operating in Terumurukkandy. The first wave of the Tiger attack was launched at 3 a.m. A group of battle hardened cadres of the Imran Pandyan brigade attacked the troops of the16 and 17 Ceylon Light Infantry. According to reports from the battlefront, the LTTE had shifted units of hardcore Tiger fighters from the northern front for the battle to save Kilinochchi.
A senior Tiger cadre known as Veluwan Master is reported to have led the Tigers in the attack. Troops repulsed the attack, supported by the 12 Singha regiment, which was inducted as reinforcement.
Bitter fighting lasted till the night when the troops finally succeeded repulsing the Tiger attack. Three soldiers were killed in action. Military sources claim inflicting heavy casualties on the Tigers. Some military officials say that at least 30 Tigers perished; however, these figures could not be independently verified.
Intercepted LTTE transmissions have revealed that Tiger cadres have faced problems over evacuating the wounded due to concerted multi barrel rocket fire, said a middle ranking military official serving on the Wanni front. Torrential rains continued to hamper military operations. The danger of anti personnel mines and booby traps which were washed away from their original positions have further compounded an already precarious ground situation.
Troops of Task Force one, advancing towards Paranthan braved flooded roads and marshy lands.
Main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles continued to provide fire support to infantry troops, but their mobility has been compromised by soggy soil. Adverse weather conditions have slowed down military advance. It is generally the case throughout the Eelam war, that the north-eastern monsoon season was used by the LTTE to launch major attacks against the security forces. Rainy weather conditions mitigate— to a certain extent— military superiority of the security forces. Air missions would be suspended and the accuracy of indirect fire – MBRL and artillery – would be compromised. So is the manoeuverability of the MBTs and IFVs. However, the operational strategy of the on -going military mission, which heavily relies on specialized small team military operations and increased fire power of individual soldiers have offset, to a certain extent- these disadvantages.
On the Weli Oyo front, troops of the 59 Division are pushing towards Nagachola forest reserve. Pitched battles are expected to flare up as they enter the suburbs of Mullaitivu- the Tiger stronghold once described as impregnable by some analysts of the Sri Lankan conflict.
Three brigades of this division are advancing to Mullaitivu from three directions. The 591 Brigade is operating along a stretch running from Tanniyattu to North of Alampil. They fought intermittent clashes with Tigers operating in the area.
The 592 Brigade is advancing along the Nadunkerni- Mullaittivu road. They confronted Tiger cadres in the Koddankkailu area, about 6 miles from Nadunkerni. They came across an LTTE cemetery located in the western border of the Nagacholai forest reserve.
The 593 Brigade is advancing towards Mulliyaweli, a town on the Mankulam-Mullaitivu road. Mulliyaweli is accommodating a large number of displaced civilians. Fighting broke up 2 km from Mulliyaweli town last week. Task Force 3, which was inducted to the Mullaitivu front last week, is advancing towards Karuppamaddikurippu. Last week, they captured Olumudu town and later in the week, they repulsed a series of counter- attacks. Military sources claimed, citing intercepted LTTE communication that at least 26 Tiger cadres were killed in the retaliation. Eleven bodies of slain Tiger cadres were recovered along with 13 T 56 assault rifles. Major Priyantha Liyanage, who commanded the troops in the absence of Battalion commander Lt colonel Darshana Wijesekara who was on leave, lost a limb when he stepped on an anti personnel mine.
Meanwhile, according to reports from the battlefront, the 632 Brigade of Task Force 3 are operating 6 km from the Iranamadu air strip of the Tigers. This area is heavily fortified and further fortification is being carried out, according to reports. Meanwhile, last week, soldiers on the ground sighted a light aircraft taking off from the direction of the air strip. The unidentified aircraft flew towards Kilinochchi in the night. Troops were kept on alert. Nothing untoward happened and the aircraft has apparently engaged in a test flying mission and landed deep inside Tiger territory.
But, uncertainty in the Eelam war is such that the unthinkable could happen anytime. The public could only pray for the better!.