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Archive for January 30th, 2009

Sri Lanka armed forces on January 25, 2009 achieved a major victory with the capturing of the LTTE’s last main stronghold in the remaining rebel held areas.

Led by Brigadier Nandana Udawatte, the 59 Division, which commenced its operations exactly a year ago, gained this victory against the LTTE further shrinking the area held by the Tigers.

The final assault to capture the Mullaitivu town was launched on January 25. All Brigades of the Division started to move from south of Mullaitivu. The Seven Gemunu Watch and the 15 Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI) based west of Chilawatta area made a sudden movement towards the town area. They moved from south west direction to the town and the Tigers did not expect the troops to advance from that direction.

Soldiers of the 7 GW, who had captured many areas in the Welioya sector made a surprise entry to the town and 15 CLI was stationed at the boundary of the town blocking all access to it.

In the meantime troops of the 593 Brigade led by Colonel Jayantha Gunarathne made a surprise attack across the Nanthikandal lagoon and entered the Mullaitivu town area. Troops of 7 GW led by Lieutenant Colonel Chaminda Lamahewa were the first to enter the town amid heavy LTTE resistance. The Mullaitivu town is situated in a narrow stretch of a land between Nanthikandal lagoon and the Indian Ocean.

Due to this situation, a large number of LTTE cadres and their heavy military hardware had been trapped in a small land stretch between Mullaitivu town and Chilawatta bordering the sea.

Recapturing the Mullaitivu town which had been dominated by the LTTE for the last 13 years mark a significant milestone in the war against LTTE terrorism.

After capturing the town troops launched heavy arms fire towards the area where the LTTE was trapped in north of Chilawatta.

During the mop up operations troops found a massive torture complex and more than 3000 photos of LTTE fighters who were killed during the recent fighting with the military. In the torture camp troops had found several boxes covered with barbed wire in which a person could not properly stand or even sit.

Troops earlier found this kind of places in the Welioya area in the recent past. Still the mop-up operations were continuing and troops were engaged in de-mining the area, a senior ground official said.

They also found a damaged bullet-proof vehicle that would have been used by either Prabhakaran or other senior Tiger leaders. The rugged-looking covered pick up wagon, fitted with double steel sheets to escape bullet hits, was found in thick jungles in Mullaitivu. It is a crude improvised version of a bullet-proof vehicle, unlike the new technologically advanced bullet-proof cars available off the shelf, a senior military official said.

Troops continue to search the area for more recoveries. Now the troops of the 59 Division are stationed just behind the Vadduvakal Bridge in north of Mullaitivu town. The Tigers are continuing to flee in a northern direction.

Vishvamadu falls

Three days after the capture of Mullaitivu, the troops of the 58 Division reached the Vishvamadu junction on Wednesday afternoon following hours of fierce fighting. Soon troops gained full total control over the Visvamadu town after initial search and clearing operations conducted in the area on Wednesday evening.

It was reported that the LTTE resisted with heavy artillery and mortar fire, but the multi-frontal military assault of the troops repulsed those attacks and scores of Tigers were killed and many injured during fighting.

Now the troops have also gained control over a 10 km stretch of the road, running North of Vishvamadu via Puliyampokkanai towards Chundikkulam. Troops are also engaged in mopping up the remaining LTTE pockets South of Vishvamadu and Piramanthalkulam. LTTE cadres have further fled towards the declared safe zones at Teravilkulam and Udayarkattukulam.

Troops of the 11 CLI and 10 GR were involved in capturing the Vishvamadu area after fierce fighting with the Tigers.

During the operation troops captured a bomb making facility. The facility had been used to manufacture locally made ‘Arul’ type bombs that the LTTE used in most of the battle.

Vishvamadu is considered as a secret area which the LTTE senior leaders used. Most of their military bases and underground facilities and hideouts had been located in this area. The area was frequently used by LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran as well to hide.

With the capture of Vishvamadu, the military expects a mass exodus of people, who are now getting shelter at the government declared ‘Safe Zone’ in north east of Vishvamadu.

Large LTTE submarine found

Task Force 3 operating in South West of Puthukuirrippu found a camp complex of the LTTE where they had a boat manufacturing yard. Troops recovered at least two small and one large underwater craft similar to a Submarine and several Dvora type boats from the yard.

Troops of 4 CLI of the 631 Brigade attached to the Task Force 3 made this recovery. Ground sources said that there were at least ten luxury type homes and underground bunkers with Air Condition facilities in the complex. The military believes that the LTTE had brought down some foreigners, and given accommodation in these places. They also suspect that these foreigners, who were experts in making underwater crafts were engaged in manufacturing sophisticated submarines. Troops found a finished Submarine some in a large size carrier on wheels. Also small submarines and some 25 feet long Dvora type boats were also recovered from the location.

The entire area had been covered in a large camouflage tent that cannot be identified from even the air as it looks like a part of the jungle.

Earlier there were reports that the LTTE were making submarines posing a threat on the Navies in the Indian Ocean.

In 2006, an LTTE operative was arrested by the US police along with a small submarine while transporting cocaine. Four men, including a Sri Lankan, linked to the LTTE were arrested for trying to smuggle cocaine in a semi-submersible home made submarine.A U.S. Coast Guard cutter spotted them in their semi-submersible boat off the coast of Costa Rica. Boarding crews found 7000 pounds of cocaine and a loaded AK-47.

The LTTE for a number of years have experimented with using submarines. This sort of underwater manned drones can sustain speeds of 25 knots and have a range of 1000 miles in quiet seas.

A few years back authorities in Thailand discovered a specially made submarine. In this submarine a total 10 tons of submerged equipment could be transported. They are subsurface and are not fully undersea crafts. Basically its hull sits in water while a low profile tower can observe surface vehicles.

The Mullaitivu debacle in 1996

On July 18, 1996 the LTTE launched an attack on the Army base at Mullaitivu town after the Tigers planned and trained a group of 4,000 cadres for the offensive. Velupillai Prabhakaran had been personally involved in the planning and coordination of the operation code named ‘Unceasing Waves’.

The Sri Lankan army base at Mullaitivu covered a vast area and was bordered by the sea on one side. The camp occupied an area 2900metres long and 1500metres wide with a perimeter of 8500metres.

This base was the 215 Brigade Headquarters which had no road links to any other garrisons situated in the region. Based there were 7th Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment and the 7th battalion of the Sinha Regiment. On the day of the attack the two most senior officers, the officiating Brigade Commander, then Colonel (later Major General) Lawrence Fernando and his deputy, Lt. Colonel Gunaratne, were away in Colombo on duty leave.

The Tigers launched their assault at 1.30am on the July 18, 1996. After eight hours of heavy fighting, the Tigers reached the centre of the camp after overrunning the forward defense lines and clusters of mini-camps.

The LTTE waited until  dark to attack the central base camp, which was the operational headquarters of the 6th Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment.

In order to prevent any attack the Army planned an operation named ‘Thrivida Pahara’ before dawn. The plan called for a relief force to be transported by ship to the sea off the coast of Mullaitivu from Jaffna and to be landed by smaller boats on the coast close to the base. Meanwhile the Sri Lanka Air Force carried out attacks on the LTTE. Due to the delay of the transport of troops by sea, 275 elite commandos from the 1st Special Forces Regiment led by their Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel A.F. Lafir were heli-dropped under heavy LTTE fire and made radio contact with the besieged troops in the Mullaitivu camp.

Despite his wounds Lt. Col. Lafir personally led the attack after landing near Alampil, until his death. Later he was awarded the Parama Weera Vibhushana the highest award for combat bravery in Sri Lanka.

The commandos were reinforced on the 19th when troops began to make a landing by sea under the protection of Sri Lankan Navy’s fast attack craft. But the Sea Tigers attacked the naval force using suicide boats. A large gunboat SLNS Ranaviru was destroyed with its entire crew of 36. After losing this gunboat the landings were halted.

In the evening of July 19, the entire camp fell to the Tigers.

July 24 and 25 saw the troops withdrawing after the higher command had decided to abandon the relief of the destroyed base. This concluded the battle.

During the battle the Sri Lankan military lost at least 1,200 troops. The Sri Lankan Military alleged that 207 soldiers who had surrendered to the LTTE were executed after they were herded together, doused with gasoline, and burned to death.

The LTTE claimed 332 cadres killed. During the battle the LTTE captured significant amounts of weapons and equipment from the base, including a few 120 mm mortars.

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