- Tigers unload weapons on Mullaitivu beaches
- Navy attacks vessel bringing in weapons
It is no secret that the LTTE continues to receive weapons and other lethal cargo. A Tiger vessel carrying weapons set sail in the direction of Sri Lanka some two weeks ago. This was revealed in this columnist on December 14.
Heavy fighting in Kilinochchi earth bund amidst rain of mortarsThe navy’s destruction last Sunday morning of an LTTE vessel transporting weapons in the seas off Mullaitivu confirms the revelation made in the column.
The cargo vessel had set sail from the direction of the Philippines. Intelligence agencies warned that the ship had been loaded with artillery and mortar shells, along with aircraft fuel while in Indonesia and was sailing towards Sri Lanka. Naval forces on the Eastern seas were put on high alert. Dvoras prowled the seas off the Mullaithivu coast.
On Friday (19th), an Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (U.A.V.) of the Air Force made two reconnaissance flights over Mullaitivu. High definition cameras on board the craft spotted Tiger cadres loading weapons which had been brought over by boat, onto trucks which were parked on the beach. Fighter bombers were dispatched to the location immediately, but the bad weather prevailing at the time made it difficult for the pilots to find their targets.
Meanwhile, the navy spotted a medium sized vessel around two hours after midnight on Sunday morning. The vessel was sailing around 70 nautical miles off Mullaitivu. After ascertaining that the vessel, which was around 25 metres in length, was a Tiger ship transporting weapons, the navy dvoras opened fire. As navy dvoras P.473, P.475, P.481 and P.483 were firing at the vessel, four Sea Tiger attack craft entered the scene. One of them was a suicide craft. The navy claims they sank all four of these craft as well. The navy is still engaged in operations in these seas. The reason is clear. They expect another, much larger vessel transporting weapons to arrive. However, there is no word yet on what happened to the other vessel.
Meanwhile, the army continued with its advance on the Kilinochchi front. They are meeting with stiff resistance from the Tigers. A senior military officer told this column that the Tigers were now using all their strength to defend their remaining territory.
“Oddusudan, Mullaitivu, Vetthalaikarni, Elephant Pass, Paranthan and Kilinochchi are the remaining bastions of the LTTE. The LTTE is offering stiffer resistance as we get nearer to these places” said the officer.
Around 6.15 A.M. on the 23, the Tigers launched a massive attack on the army forward defence line at Iranamadu. 400 mortar rounds and 44 artillery shells fell on the positions occupied by troops. “They didn’t fire mortars, they rained them” said a senior military officer in the field.
This forward defence line was occupied by the Tigers a week before. The 574th brigade, led by Lieutenant Colonel Senaka Wijesuriya wrested control of this defence line from the Tigers on the 16th.
As mortars rained down on the troops, the Tigers used a T.55 main battle tank to direct fire at the army defence line. This was the first time in recent times that the LTTE used a tank against the troops.
In the face of Tiger resistance, troops were forced to make a tactical withdrawal from the Iranamadu earth bund.
In the meantime, the 572nd brigade led by Lieutenant Colonel Dhammika Jayasundara managed to capture a 1 km stretch of the Tiger earth bund situated on their way to Kilinochchi west of the A-9 road. The 571st brigade is fighting towards the left of this brigade. Adampan is their theatre of operations. The 571st brigade came under fierce Tiger attack two weeks ago. But, the troops persevered and were able to capture a 2 km stretch of the Adampan earth bund by Monday (22nd). Lieutenant Colonel Harendra Ranasinghe is leading troops on this front.
The 58th division is fighting to capture the Tiger earth bund from Adampan to the Kilali lagoon. This division is commanded by Brigadier Shavindra Silva. Troops of this division captured Sinnaparanthan on Tuesday (23rd). Sinnaparanthan is located on the B.69 Pooneryn-Paranthan road. Paranthan junction is located 6 km from Sinnaparanthan. With the capture of Sinnaparanthan, troops now control the stretch of the Tiger earth bund running from the Jaffna lagoon to the B.69 road.
Fierce battles were fought to capture Sinnaparanthan. Torrential rains turned the open ground ahead of the Tiger earth bund into muddy and difficult terrain. Troops made their way towards the earth bund though they sank knee deep in mud. Tigers are estimated to have fired around 150 mortar rounds on troops at Sinnaparanthan. LTTE’s “Colonel” Swarnam had been directing the battle from just 100 metres of the bund. Intercepted radio communications revealed that the reason for Swarnam to come this close to the battle front was to direct an effort to recover the body of an LTTE Lieutenant Colonel who had been killed in the fighting. However, his body, together with that of five other Tiger cadres fell into the hands of the army. They were later handed over to the LTTE through the ICRC. According to reports reaching from the battlefront, the distance between the 58th division and Paranthan is now 6 km. The capture of Paranthan junction will be a decisive moment in the history of Eelam war IV. If they reach Paranthan, troops will have the option of choosing to move on either Elephant Pass or Kilinochchi.
Meanwhile, the army’s Task Force 4 was able to capture Nedunkeni barely 24 hours after it commenced operations. Colonel Priyantha Wanniarachchi is leading troops on this front. He was on an official overseas visit when Task Force 4 commenced its operations on Saturday (20th). In his absence, Lieutenant Colonel Priyantha Wijegunawardena led the troops. Task Force 4’s 642nd brigade, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Randula Hathnagoda captured Nedunkeni.
Nedunkeni is in the Mullaitivu district. A number of main roads connect with each other at this location. Oddusudan is located 10 kilometres to the north of Nedunkeni. Oddusudan will be important to troops as they advance towards Mullaitivu.
With Task Force 4 also commencing operations, six fronts are now connected with each other. On the eastern border is Mullaitivu. The 59th division is fighting there. Task Force 4 is to their east. Task Force 2 and Task Force 3 are fighting east of the A-9 road.
The 57th division is engaged in battle at Iranamadu on the A-9 road. The 58th division is the last division connected on this front. Thus, 6 fronts have now been opened in order to capture Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.
Commander-In-Chief Mahinda Rajapaksa claims that the LTTE will be annihilated. He named 2009 as war heroes’ victory year in a meeting with intellectuals at the Presidential Secretariat on the 22nd. In his speech, the President also emphasized that he would not hesitate to ban the LTTE if they failed to release civilians who were trapped in the Wanni.
However, banning the LTTE will have no impact on current military operations. The impact will be on any future peace talks.
The President’s comments are further proof that the government is not prepared to go for any sort of negotiated settlement with the Tigers. Clearly, the objective is to completely crush the LTTE by military means.
293 navy personnel awarded Ranashura and Ranawickrama medals
293 navy personnel were awarded Ranawickrama (R.W.P.) and Ranashura (R.S.P.) medals for acts of bravery performed on the battlefield. The medals were awarded at a ceremony held at the Sugathadasa Stadium on the 20th. Navy Commander Vice-Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda was the chief guest. The navy commander awarded 5 Ranawickrama and 288 Ranashura medals to sailors.
This is the first time in a long while that medals for bravery were awarded to navy personnel. A number of navy officers are also due to receive Weera Wickrama Vibhushana medals for their heroic acts in volunteering to save the lives of others while risking their own. These medals can only be awarded by the President. They are due to be awarded to these officers by the country’s President and Commander-In-Chief Mahinda Rajapaksa at a ceremony in the future.