The LTTE despite all its bravado that the Government is merely day dreaming of capturing its de facto capital Kilinochchi, is heading for defeat on all fronts: but it is far from finished, and is in vain sacrificing its cadres in continuing to fight mostly one sided battles.
While the Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran throws all his reserves of hardcore units into battle now to halt the Security Forces march, he is at the same time counting on Tamil Nadu pressure to force an Indian intervention of some sort here once again, to save it from the ignominy of total defeat.
If it is more battles he is looking for with his bravado, then he has more than his match in Army Commander Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka. Amidst some heavy fighting this week he is now raising a fifth fighting Task Force to put into battle in the coming weeks. It will also be the army’s ninth attacking force entering battle against the enemy.
It was only in the previous week that the Army Headquarters finalised arrangements to raise its Fourth fighting Task Force. Once the newly formed Task Force IV headed by Col. Nishantha Wanniarachchi is deployed in Mulaitivu in the coming days, to supplement 59 Division already battling LTTE there, the latest fighting Task Force V, now being formed too will enter battle.
The Army Commander has designated Col. Athula Galagamage as the Commander of the Task Force V. Commander of the 11th Gemunu Regiment Lt. Col. Priyanka Fernando and Commander of Seventh Light Infantry Regiment Lt. Col. Ranjith Abeyratne have been picked as its Brigade Commanders. Col. Galagamage till now was serving with the 56 Division deployed at Omanthai.
There were also some key changes in some frontline commands this week. Special Forces Lt. Col. Harendra Ranasinghe who has been serving as the Staff Colonel of the Task Force 1 from its inception, took over as the 57-1 Brigade Commander, and Col G.V. Ravipriya who has commanded 57-1 from its inception, took over as Mannar area Commander. Mannar area Commander Brig. Channa Gunatillake assumes the Command of 56 Division from Maj. Gen. Jagath Rambukpotha, who is proceeding to India to attend the National Defence College there.
Heavy fighting broke out on Wednesday as the Army advanced towards Killinochchi from several directions and the exchanges that began at 10:00am continued non stop for another 24 hours. The heaviest fighting took place at Pudumuruppukulam, west of Killinochchi town and south of Adampan. Later the fighting spread right along the defensive line put up by the LTTE to defend Kilinochchi.
The Air Force too engaged Tiger positions non stop in support of the ground troops.
Using the familiarity of the ground to their advantage, the Tigers virtually cornered the Seventh Light Infantry Regiment with a heavy rain of mortar and artillery fire. The regiment lost the lives of 22 of its men as a result, including 12 men who fell into Tiger hands. Another 30 soldiers were injured.
Intercepted LTTE communications have indicated their losses at 27 killed and 31 wounded. But the pro-Tiger website Tamilnet placed the army death toll in two days of fighting (Wednesday and Thursday) at 120 killed and 280 wounded, while keeping totally silent about their own casualties. Tigers had also put on display bodies of 12 soldiers who fell into their hands in the areas they control, in order to boost the morale of their cadres.
Whatever the Tiger claims, the Eighth Infantry Regiment, the 10th Infantry Regiment and 16th Sinha Regiment coming under 57-4 Brigade led by Lt. Col. Senaka Wijesuriya smashed a three kilometer stretch of the Tiger trench-cum-bund defence line from Akkarayan to Therumurukandi this week and advanced another four kilometers.
Meanwhile troops of the 57 Division who are moving towards fighting the final battle to take Kilinochchi and Iranamadu, did so this week amidst heavy rains once again, facing immense difficulties because of the fickle weather.
Tigers also lost a large number of cadres in trying to take on troops preparing to break through their defence line from Adampan Town. Lt. Col. Jayampathy Bandara led 12th Sinha Regiment troops killed 30 Tiger cadres in this battle. Maj. Sujeewa Perera is the second in Command of this regiment.
Tigers launched the first attack in this area at 3:00 a.m. last Sunday taking on 16th Infantry and 17th Infantry, while these two regiments were battling the attackers; the 12th Sinha came forward and engaged the attackers. Waves of Tiger attacks were beaten back in this manner till 8:00 p.m. that night.
These attacks were directed by its Special Leader of the Imran Pandiyan Force identified as Welawan Master and a Leader of Charles Anthony Force identified as Gopi. For these attacks Tigers had brought in cadres from Nagarkovil and Elephant Pass. Fortunately for troops only three were killed in these clashes.
Due to strategic counter measures adopted by the 57 Division, Tiger leaders who led the attacks had pleaded with their commanders that they could not make any headway. While these waves of attacks were taking place, air strikes and multi-barrel rocket fire also neutralized Tigers massing on several locations to launch fresh waves of attacks.
The attackers had been further handicapped by their inability to evacuate injured expeditiously due to shortage of transport.
Similarly Brig. Shavendra Silva led 58 Division (Task Force 1) advanced along the Pooneryn-Paranthan road traversing the flooded road and the surrounding open terrain also under water. The Fifth Armoured Corp and the infantry regiments operating under this Division kept hammering at the six kilometer long Tiger trench-cum-bund defence line facing them.
The 55 and 53 Divisions, which captured the Tiger first defence line at Jaffna few weeks back, this week, resumed probing operations to breakthrough the second LTTE defence line at Muhamalai and Nagarkovil.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Donald Perera and Army Commander Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka, who visited Wanni Command Headquarters on Thursday and conferred with all senior commanders of units serving in Wanni, also assessed the ground situation with Wanni Commander Maj. Gen Jagath Jayasuriya and other top brass.
The Defence Secretary while praising the victories notched up by the forces, also conveyed President Rajapaksa’s good wishes to them. Later the trio also visited Jaffna and met with Jaffna Commander Maj. Gen G.A. Chandrasiri and rest of the top brass in the peninsula, where again the ground situation was evaluated.
The Task Force 111 commanded by Brig Sathyapriya Liyanage also continued their drive amidst heavy rain. Lt. Col. Priyantha Perera led 63-1 Brigade now has advanced some four kilometers beyond Olumadu on A-34 route and were in the process of capturing Kuruppamaddimuruppu Junction.
About three kilometers north of this junction, Lt. Col. Subashana Welikala led 63-2 Brigade completed the capture of the Old Kandy Road. The 20th Sinha Regiment belonging to this Brigade engaged the Tiger defence line north of Olumadu and successfully overcame a number of LTTE targets there on December 5. Later it repelled several waves of counter attacks by Tigers to dislodge them, and in the process killed more than 26 attackers. They even managed to recover bodies of 11 Tiger cadres and 13 assault rifles and a radio communication set.
As the Commanding Officer of this regiment Lt. Col. Dharshana Wijesekera was on leave, the entire responsibility of leading its troops in these clashes fell on the shoulders of his deputy Maj. Priyantha Liyanage. He was assisted by Maj. Aruna Wijesinghe in carrying out operations. But unfortunately for Maj. Liyanage, later while moving among his troops, he stepped on an anti-personnel mine and lost a leg.
The LTTE is said to be building a new defence line to prevent 63-2 Brigade, which is now heading towards Ampakamam, from capturing their main runway at Iranamadu. This runway is situated some six kilometres from troops of this Brigade. As the troops were advancing in the direction of the runway, Forces have established that a Tiger light aircraft had taken off on Thursday at about 7:15 p.m. and flown towards Kilinochchi, prompting the Forces to be put on alert.
Meanwhile one of Tiger diversionary teams who are involved in hit and run operations in the East, were confronted by an Army Commando team at Kanjikudiaru. The Tiger terror team headed by Nagulan, was successfully engaged by the commandos killing four of them, and causing injuries to the leader and three others. What is most shocking is the fact Nagulan’s team comprising some 25 cadres was caught up by the commandos only some 500 metres from a Police Special Task Force base.
According to available intelligence, about 50 Tigers under the command of Tiger leaders Nagulan, Umaram, Raguwan and Kalaimaduran had been deployed to cause havoc in Yala and eastern regions.
In addition to staging terror attacks, they have been tasked with reactivating Tiger cadres, who turned civilian with the fall of Toppigala after burying their weapons.