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Archive for January 4th, 2009

If there is any success story in the war against terror across the globe, the Sri Lankan Security Forces marked that in the world map with the dawn of the year 2009 with their unparalleled victories against the LTTE, the most ruthless terror outfit in the world with the capture of Paranthan and Kilinochchi.

They shattered all myths about the invincibility of the LTTE and their so-called impregnable strongholds, with the capture of their administrative capital in a surprise move just 24 hours after they capture the key junction town Paranthan.

These twin victories mark the downfall of the LTTE. Security Forces could break the backbone of the LTTE and its leader Prabhakaran through these strategic moves. The national flag fluttered in the open air in Kilinochchi after ten years as the troops of the 57 Division and the 58 Division trod their feet in the Kilinochchi town in the early hours of Friday but the official declaration of the capture of Kilinochchi came in the evening with President addressing the nation to declare victory.


LANDMARK MILESTONE: The victorious 58 Div. Commander Brig. Shavendra Silva(4th from L.) and 57 Div. GOC Major Gen. Jagath Dias (R. front)with their jubillant troops after capturing Kilinochchi from the LTTE after 10 years.

The fall of Paranthan made Kilinochchi untenable for the LTTE as troops could seal off the town from three directions from the North, West and the South. It was on the eve of December 31 the troops of the Task Force I or the 58 Division recorded their historic victory capturing the key junction town Paranthan. It was after fierce battles the Task Force I or the 58 Division and the 57 Divisions reached these victories. Fierce battles erupted in December in the outskirts of Kilinochchi and Paranthan amidst floods that played havoc in the battlefront for past one and half months after the capture of Pooneryn. The initial success of the battles to capture Paranthan and Kilinochchi came on December 16 as 57 Division and the 58 Division launched simultaneous attacks on the LTTE’s ditch cum bund that has been constructed defending these two strategic towns from the West of A-9 road.

That was the final barrier that has to be overcome by the troops to reach either Paranthan or Kilinochchi. Paranthan was the key target of the 58 Division under the command of Brigadier Shavendra Silva which captured strategically important Pooneryn town on the Western coast on November 15, whilst Kilinochchi was the key target of the 57 Division under the command of Major General Jagath Dias.

With the capture of Pooneryn the 58 Division diverted its battlefront from West to East to advance towards Paranthan and confronted heavily with the LTTE in the ditch cum bund along with the 57 Division which was on the Kilinochchi front.

Although a fair number of casualties and deaths were reported from the Security Forces during the fierce battles in the 57 and 58 Division fronts, the 58 Division troops managed to capture one Kiliometre stretch of earth bund from the North of Pooneryn Paranthan B-69 Road.The 57 Division also managed to capture a section of the earth bund but had to give up due to heavy casualties during the counter attack of the LTTE. The bad weather and the flooded terrains made them difficult to operate in the earth bund as they faced difficulties in casualty evacuation.However, the 58 Division managed to hold the ground facing all counter attacks by the LTTE, and advanced ahead of it from the Jaffna lagoon front whilst taking the control of the lagoon front and expanding their positions along the earth bund from Jaffna lagoon towards south to the Pooneryn-Paranthan Road.They could do so amidst stiff resistance from the LTTE and also amidst rains of artillery and mortars falling to the battlefront. The Tigers were using fresh stocks of ammunition unloaded from a ship operating in the international waters close to Sri Lanka.

The initial success of the Paranthan battle came when 58 Division troops managed to capture Sinnaparanthan located some five to six kilometres from the West of Paranthan junction. Amidst all resistance by the LTTE, the 58 Division managed to link up their positions along the earth bund from Jaffna lagoon to Pooneryn Paranthan front and continued to expand towards the South of Pooneryn-Paranthan Road towards Adampan village.

Whilst 58 Division was making these moves the 57 Division also following the massive attack they launched on the Tiger earth bund on December 20, recaptured the ditch cum earth bund from West and South of Kilinochchi making a steady progress against the LTTE in the Kilinochchi front advancing towards Kilinochchi from the West and South directions.By December 30 the 58 Division had created the ground work to capture either Paranthan or Pooneryn townships as they were closing in onto the A-9 Road from both directions. But Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka decided to give priority for the capture of Paranthan considering the tactical importance of the location. The fall of Paranthan also herald the downfall of Kilinochchi and also the Jaffna front as they could cut vital arteries that link Kilinochchi and Jaffna front through Paranthan front.

The capture of Paranthan meant the LTTE losing the vital links between Jaffna front and Mullaitivu too as they could not operate through the A-35 Road once the troops capture Paranthan junction and the stretch of A-9 Road in the North of Paranthan. Instead, they have to use the coastal link from Chempiyanpattu to Mullaitivu to keep strategic links between Jaffna front and Mullaitivu which are the remaining territories under their control. Considering all these factors troops of the 58 Division decided to launch the offensive to capture Paranthan whilst maintaining pressure on Kilinochchi as they were operating one and half kilometres to Kilinochchi from the North.Troops of 58 Division went on a wider front to Paranthan and cut off A-9 Road from 3 Km North of Paranthan a location between Paranthan and Elephant Pass whilst another column of troops cut off the A-9 Road in general area famously known as Karandi Bokkuwa which is located some four Kilometers South of Paranthan junction.

The 9 Gemunu Watch battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Lal Chandrasiri cut off the A-9 Road from the North of Paranthan whilst troops attached to the 10 Gajaba Regiment under the command of Major Udaovita advanced from the South of Pooneryn-Paranthan Road to cut off the A-9 Road in the general area Karandibokkuwa in the North of Kilinochchi. The 12 Gemunu Watch battalion commanded by Lt. Colonel Nandana Dunuwila advanced towards the A-9 from the North of Paranthan while 17 Gemunu Watch battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Keerthi Kottewatta advanced head on to the Paranthan junction in their bid to capture the key junction town. Since it was totally difficult task for the infantry troops to cross the open terrain stretching more than one and half kilometres to advance towards A-9, 58 Division troops used the 30th night and the 31st morning before the first morning light to bring in troops as close as 500 meters to the West of A-9 Road in the West of Paranthan.On December 31 morning without taking much casualties they took the area West of Paranthan junction.

The Commando troops led the battle operating ahead of the infantry troops and were supported by the artillery and armoured corps taking the Tiger positions accurately. The fighter jets and the MI-24 helicopter gunships of the Sri Lanka Air Force gave close support to the ground troops in neutralizing LTTE artillery and mortar positions.With the capture of the Paranthan junction the troops of the 58 Division started to expand their front further towards Kilinochchi to the South.Troops attached to 10 Gajaba Regiment under the Command of Major Udaowita and 11 Sri Lanka Light Infantry battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Kithsiri Ekanayake advanced towards Kilinochchi from the East of A-9 Road whilst troops attached to 12 Gajaba Regiment under the command of Major Saliya Amunugama and 6 Gemunu Watch battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Kamal Pinnawala advanced towards Kilinochchi town from the West of A-9 road.Whilst the 58 Division making these strategic moves the 57 Division under the command of Major General Jagath Dias also led his troops in the West and South of Kilinochchi towards the centre. The 571 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Harendra Ranasinghe advanced towards Kilinochchi from the West whilst keeping links with 8 Gemunu Watch Battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Vajira Welagedara who was operating in the Southern end of the 58 Division.

By December 3, the 571 Brigade operating in the West and the 572 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Dhammika Jayasundera operating in the South West of Kilinochchi have already reached the build up area of Kilinochchi town West of A-9 road. The 574 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Senaka Wijesuriya also advanced towards the vital Iranamadu junction from South of Kilinochchi amidst stiff resistance from the LTTE. As of January 01, the troops observed a remarkable progress as they observed LTTE cadres fleeing from the Kilinochchi town loading their stuff in vehicles whilst their leadership was making desperate attempts to stop them fleeing Kilinochchi.

At the dawn of the January 2, troops of the 572 Brigade, 12 Sinha Regiment which was under the command of Lt. Colonel Indrajith Bandara and now led by its second in command, 9 Gajaba Regiment under the command of Lt. Colonel Chandana Somaweera, and 4 Sinha Regiment entered the centre of Kilinochchi after advancing one kilometre across the build up area in the West of Kilinochchi.

The 3 Gajaba Regiment and the 9 Vijayaba Infantry regiment under the 572 Brigade entered the Kilinochchi town from the North of Iranamadu junction. The 8 Sri Lanka Infantry Regiment under the command of Lt. Colonel Epsitha Dissanayake, 10 Sri Lanka Light Infantry battalion under the command of Major Samantha and 16 Sinha Regiment battalion under the command of Major Dhammika Dissanayake took control of the area upto the telecom tower in the South of Kilinochchi.

Amidst these moves LTTE opted to flee from Kilinochchi from the eastern direction towards Dry Aru. Fierce battles erupted in Dry Aru tank area and Iranamadu tank as troops further advanced towards the East of Kilinochchi town to make the town more safer.One major obstacle they faced was the 30 mm canon famously known as pedal gun of the LTTE that directed fire at the advancing troops who shifted that gun from the area by Friday afternoon to ensure the area is safe to declare Kilinochchi fully liberated.

With the capture of Kilinochchi and Paranthan troops are now poised to advance further in the Eastern direction to capture strategic Puthukuduiruppu and Vishvamadu areas.

(The Observer)

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Sri Lankan troops advanced Saturday on the military headquarters of the Tamil Tigers and engaged the rebels in fresh gunbattles, a day after capturing their de facto political capital.

The defence ministry said ground forces, backed by helicopter gunships and war planes, were moving towards Mullaittivu, the jungle district along the northeastern seaboard, where the Tigers have their main military facilities.

“The battle for Mullaitivu has already begun,” the ministry said in a statement.

The air force used Mi-24 helicopter gunships to carry out four bombing raids Saturday in support of the advancing troops while jet aircraft were also deployed to hit Tiger positions, a military spokesman said.

He added that 10 such missions were carried out on Friday.

In the capital Colombo, a bomb went off at a commercial area of the city on Saturday, wounding three civilians and damaging several vehicles, police said. A suicide bombing in Colombo on Friday killed two people and wounded 36.

Troops, who took the Tigers’ northern stronghold of Kilinochchi on Friday, were fanning out to neighbouring areas and confronted small pockets of rebel resistance, a military official said.

“Several Tigers were killed and security forces also suffered injuries,” the official said.

The pro-rebel Tamilnet website reported that a petrol station and a bus station were bombed by the air force on Friday morning, killing four civilians and wounding another eight.

The defence ministry said government troops were moving further north of their positions in Kilinochchi in a bid to retake the strategically vital Elephant Pass which was lost to the Tigers in April 2000.

Elephant Pass lies at the entrance to the Jaffna peninsula which security forces wrested from rebel control in 1995.

Military officials said the fall of Kilinochchi had cleared the way for security forces to re-establish control over a vital highway linking the northern Jaffna peninsula with the rest of the country.

Jaffna, which has a population of nearly half a million people and a considerable military presence, used to be supplied by air and sea because the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) controlled the land route.

President Mahinda Rajapakse called the army’s capture of Kilinochchi an “unparalleled victory” for the entire nation and urged the rebels to lay down their arms and end their decades-old struggle for a separate homeland.

Street celebrations took place in the capital Colombo and elsewhere as news of the town’s capture broke.

The Tigers admitted losing Kilinochchi but argued that the town had been abandoned rather than captured.

“The Sri Lanka army has entered a virtual ghost town as the whole civilian infrastructure as well as the centre of the LTTE had shifted further northeast,” the Tigers said through the pro-rebel Tamilnet website.

While losing Kilinochchi is a major setback, the Tigers have shown in the past that they have the ability to rebound.

(AFP)

(more…)

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58 Division troops are now 2kms south of EPS. Tigers are positioned along the former forward defence line constructed by the EPS’ 54 Division. This FDL is where Hasalaka Gamini Kularatne gave his life in heroic fashion.

58 Division troops, somewhat fatigued by recent exploits into Kilinochchi will probably take some time to retake the area. Further north the Mech Infantry, formerly under Ralph Nugera, is awaiting orders to march under Udaya Herath, Nugera’s deputy.

Meanwhile sources indicated that the LTTE maybe constructing another bund at Mirusavil, 10km east of Paranthan. Tigers have moved around 1000 cadres from Kilinochchi to Mulaitivu. Air strikes, MBRL and artillery strikes were launched on identified gathering points to eliminate the build up.

Heavy LTTE mortar and artillery strikes are being launched from this area for the last 10 days. An artillery barrage also fell on Kilinochchi town today. Despite these developments no clear strategy has emerged from the LTTE’s side.

The SLA also captured the Iranamadu tank bund today. They recovered 8 bodies of soldiers declared missing in recent confrontations in this area. A large number of LTTE bodies recovered from various places in this fashion were all buried.

A contingent of 15 SBS and RABS units were deployed at Nayaru today to help end any sea tiger infiltrations. The contingent will increase to about 25 boats or 75 SBS/RABS men in due course.

(more…)

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The Military can end the war in a matter of four months regaining the remaining areas from the LTTE from Mullaitivu to Nagarkovil, a senior military officer told . Meanwhile, the navy and air force has introduced a joint programme to tighten security in the North to prevent LTTE leader Velupillai Pirapaharan from fleeing the country.

He said that after the capture of Kilinochchi town, the army commenced operations yesterday targeting the Vishwamadu and Mullaitivu areas where the LTTE leader is believed to be holed in. Military intelligence sources say that the LTTE leader must be making arrangements to flee the country, now that Kilinochchi has fallen. They say that Prabhakaran will make good his escape either by sea or air. Meanwhile, air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said that since the air defence system has been properly activated, they will be able to track any aircraft which violates Sri Lankan airspace and that the air force possessed the capability to identify and destroy any enemy aircraft.

Navy spokesman Captain D.K.P. Dassanayake said that the navy has sent more vessels to patrol the seas off the northern and eastern coast and that security has been beefed up over a radius of 40 nautical miles off the coast of uncleared areas.TMVP leader, parliamentarian Karuna Amman says that Tiger leader Pirapaharan is currently hiding in the Wanni and that he has been confined to Vishwamadu and Dharmapuram areas. However, he said that there was no information that his family was in the Wanni with him. Meanwhile, it is learnt that hundreds of civilians trapped in the Wanni were preparing to cross over to government controlled areas from today.

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Military planners of the Wanni operations initially envisaged the capture the administrative headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam by the dawn of the New Year. By the end of last week, the two military divisions which laid siege to Kilinochchi town had pierced through the trench cum earth bund built by the Tigers on the avenue of the approach of the two divisions.

Task Force 1 also known as the 58 Division was advancing towards Paranthan junction and the 57 division had broken through the remnants of the earth bund in Akkarayankulam.

However, on the eve of the New Year, Tigers stepped up resistance against Task Force 1, which was advancing on the Paranthan-Pooneryn road. A 30 mm cannon fitted to an armoured personnel carrier (APC) fired salvos at the soldiers. Fire power was so strong that it broke the trees. The APC fitted with the cannon kept moving from place to place to distract the fire finding radars. Later, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) spotted the APC and based on electronic evidence provided by the UAV, Air Force fighter jets destroyed the APC, clearing the challenge.

Paranthan junction

At the dawn of the New Year, troops of the Task Force 1 took the Tigers holding the strategically important Paranthan junction by surprise. They delivered a coordinated pre-dawn attack. Under the cover of darkness, the Nine Gemunu Regiment and alpha company of the second commando Regiment captured the village named Uriyan located two km north of Paranthan, thereby cutting off a supply route for Tiger cadres from Elephant Pass. This was followed by a coordinated attack on the strategically important Paranthan town by several regiments attached to this division.
Air force fighter jets carried out regular air sorties while armoured and artillery attacks targeted Tiger cadres holding well fortified positions. By midnight, the 12 Gamunu Regiment stormed the garrison town. Meanwhile, Eleven Ceylon Light Infantry supported by the Bravo Company of the First Commando regiment entered the A 9 road 1 km north of Kilinochchi.

By early morning of January 1, troops succeeded dislodging the Tigers from Paranthan junction and thereby effectively cutting off the main supply route of Mullaitivu- Kilinochchi road. The capture of the junction also isolated Elephant pass from Kilinochchi.
The LTTE launched a series of counter attacks, carried out by the battle hardened Tiger formation known as the Imran Pandyan brigade. Soldiers beat back successive attacks. Heavy artillery and mortar dual prevailed and main battle tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles of the Fifth Armoured Corp engaged with the Tiger targets.

Later in the day, the 11 Ceylon Light Infantry pushed southwards on the A 9 road towards Kilinochchi. They stopped 1 km from the Kilinochchi Railway station and took up positions. By then, the 571,572 and 574 Brigades attached to the 57 Division had broken through the earth bund and were approaching the Tiger political headquarters in three directions.

By 10 am on January 2, the 571 Brigade entered the Kilinochchi town. They were followed by the 572 and 574 Brigades. As the troops entered the built up area, the Tiger cadres opted to urban guerrilla warfare. Troops were faced with stiff resistance from the Tigers fighting from abandoned buildings. The house to house clearing operations became a tedious task. Then instructions were given to engage any buildings from where fire was coming using Rocket Propelled Grenades in order to avoid military casualties.

Retreated

The Tigers retreated and by afternoon, troops had consolidated the control of the administrative headquarters of the LTTE.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa officially announced the capture addressing the nation, describing it as a victory for the entire country.

By the end of December, the LTTE smelt the impending fall of Kilinochchi and P. Nadesan, the political commissar of the movement said that the Tigers would fight irrespective of the loss of Kilinochchi— only a couple of weeks after Tiger supremo Velupillai Pirapaharan called the capture of Kilinochchi as a day dream of President Rajapaksa. When Nadesan admitted the possible fall of Kilinochchi, the 57 and 58 Divisions had effectively pierced through the trench cum earth bund. By then, there was no gainsaying that the fall of the town was imminent.

The Tigers fought tooth and nail to save Kilinochchi. No official figures have been released on the casualties of the security forces during the month of December, which was the bloodiest month during the fourth Eelam war. The LTTE had rarely been releasing its casualty figures. Heavy casualties were partially due as the security forces claimed that the LTTE continues to replenish its armoury. For instance, they point to the increase in the artillery and mortar attacks by the LTTE since mid December.

However, the most startling evidence of continued smuggling of arms by the LTTE was captured by an Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV) on December 19. According to the two hour Video footage recorded by the UAV, an approximately 35 foot trawler was seen beached in Chalai, unloading boxes of ammunition. Boxes were stacked on the beach and were seen loaded to trucks, which disappeared into the jungles. Chalai is the main launching pad of the sea Tigers. The UAV videoed the entire operation for two hours, however, the bad weather prevented the Air Force from engaging the target.
On the following day the navy intercepted and destroyed the alleged arms smuggling vessel, 17 km off Mullaitivu.

According to intelligence reports, the LTTE continues to smuggle arms through the ship to trawler transfer at mid sea. Intelligence sources have reported that a ship carrying arms and ammunition had been anchored in the Andaman Sea. These arms are loaded onto trawlers and transported to Chalai. The LTTE trawlers, fitted with high powered engines operate in the midst of hundreds of Indian fishing trawlers, which have made their interception extremely difficult.

Back to the Wanni front; following the capture of Paranthan junction, the Task Force 1 is advancing towards Elephant Pass towards north and Murisamodai towards the east. Troops were operating only 2 km from Elephant Pass by yesterday. Task Force 1 is moving northward while the 53 and 55 Divisions of the army deployed in Muhamalai, Nagar Kovil and Kilaly were expected to move southward at anytime from now. However, many military officials believe that the Tigers would pull back from the northern defence lines, rather than risking a double envelopment by the three military divisions.

Loss of opportunity

However, military planners whose military strategy for the last three years aimed at the attrition of the guerrillas view a pull back by the LTTE as a loss of opportunity to score a higher rate of attrition on the guerrillas. According to military estimates, the LTTE has lost approximately 12,000 cadres during the last three years. They attribute this high attrition rate to the LTTE’s desire to fight from the beginning. Throughout 2007 and 2008, the Tigers offered stiff resistance as troops began operations from their forward defence lines running parallel to the Mannar-Vavuniya road. Troops fought pitched battles in Mannar’s rice bowl.

The LTTE shifted the strategy only during the latter part of 2008, opting to vacate Pooneryn and Mankulam in order to save cadres for future battles. The pull out from these places, though helped save Tiger cadres, by that time, the fighting units of the LTTE had faced a severe drain as well as battle stress.

How long would the Tigers opt to hold onto the northern defence lines is open to question. The longer the better, at least for enough time till the 58 Division could manoeuvre close to the northern defence lines, military planners believe. But, reports from the battle front reveal that the LTTE had already been vacating Elephant Pass, once the home to the largest military garrison which housed over 10,000 troops when the Army vacated the camp in the face of the guerrilla onslaught, Unceasing wave 3 in 2000.

The LTTE is believed to have at least 6000 fighting cadres, according to military estimates. Military officials believe that the LTTE would build another earth bund cum trench to defend its military nerve centres in Mullaitivu.

Last week, five small teams of the 59 Division stormed a trench cum earth bund in Alampil. Five “eight man” teams took control of the earth bund and pushed deeper. They were unaware that a trench ran 200 meters from the earth bund. Advancing further, they were trapped in open land as Tiger cadres started to fire from the trench. 27 soldiers were killed, of which 22 bodies could not be recovered. The LTTE later handed over 17 bodies of soldiers through the ICRC.

Many fallen soldiers had close gunshot wounds, said a military official. Later in the week, troops of the 59 Division operating in Mulliyaweli came under strong counter attack by the Tigers. Troops repulsed the attack and during the subsequent search operations 14 bodies of slain LTTE cadres were recovered along with a catch of arms including one MPMG (Multi Purpose Machine Gun), two RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) launchers, ten RPG rounds, five T-56 riffles and hand grenades.

The air strip of the LTTE is located 3 km from the area where troops are operating in Mulliyaweli. Hence is the stronger resistance by the Tigers, said a military official.
There is no gainsaying that the battle is becoming brutal and bloodier. However, battle for Kilinochchi, which some analysts opt to describe as the mother of all battles, was not protracted as it was projected to be.

However, the LTTE would like to fight one last battle which would decide whether it would retain conventional fighting capability.

Military strategy for the last leg of the battle has already been announced. Accordingly, the final thrust would involve 6 military Divisions- 57 and 59 Divisions and Task Force 1, 2, 3 and 4, which altogether have 100 battalions and 50,000 troops. The six divisions would lay siege to the Tiger enclave in Mullaitivu and will launch a coordinate attack.
Military successes in the past were reversed as they captured towns and urban centres while enabling the Tigers to retreat to the jungles from where they regrouped and fought back the forces.

The current military mission, though was protracted and the jungles were cleared before laying siege to the towns. Commandos are already operating in the jungles of Iranamadu as a prelude to the final thrust. The LTTE would be confined to an area of the size of 160 km2 from where it would be forced to fight the last conventional battle. It would not be a long before. According to senior military officials’ talk, though not yet public, the intention is to destroy the LTTE’s conventional military capability by June this year. That appears to be not too ambitious if the current military achievements are to be viewed with its due merit.

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