Top leaders killed paralyzing Sea Tiger wing
The LTTE lost one of its main Sea Tiger bases in the Eastern sea belt — Chalai — on Wednesday night. With the fall of Chaial the LTTE’s access to the sea has been virtually cut-off and they are now confined mainly to land areas. The strategically important base in Chalai was one of the main locations where the Sea Tigers carried out several devastating attacks on the Sri Lanka Navy, which lost several boats off this coast.
The initial battle to capture the base started on Sunday February 1. Troops of the 4th Gemunu Watch led by Major Upul Senerath of the 552 Brigade stormed the heavily fortified bund built by the Tigers using earth and sand, at around 6.30 pm. The one kilometre long, seven feet high bund linked the sea from the east and the lagoon from the west just a few kilomtres north of the Chalai Sea Tiger base.
The devastating attack was launched after an hour of fierce fighting using Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers, artillery guns and mortars targeting the earth bund, which is the first barrier that the troops had to face after crossing the Chundikulam lagoon some three kilometres away.
Within a span of two hours, the troops were able to take full control of the bund. Just in front of the bund there was a mine field. One soldier was instantly killed when one of the mines went off as the victim stepped on it. However, the troops managed to capture the bund despite heavy resistance from the Tigers, who continuously fired at the security forces using 12.7mm guns, 81 mm mortars and 30 mm canon guns, which normally is fixed to attack boats. The gun had been mounted on a tractor, which was on the move after every attack.
After holding the bund during the night, the 1st Commando Regiment led by Major K. Gnaratne moved beyond the bund with the break of dawn and was able to clear an area facilitating the 7 Vijayaba and 6 Light Infantry to move further.
After some time they were able to reach the second bund, located some 400 metres from the first bund. It was not built as strongly as the first one, but the Tigers attacked the advancing forces using heavy weapons. However, by noon the troops were able to gain full control of the second bund after fierce fighting.
On a jungle patch on the side of the lagoon the LTTE had mounted heavy guns and continued to attack the military. On the same day troops moved to another bund that was located one kilomtere away from the second bund and took control of it as the Tigers fled the bund due to the barrage of artillery shells launched by the 4th Artillery regiment.
The third bunker line was captured by two companies from the 7 Vijayaba Infantry Regiment who had infiltrated the area while the 6 Ceylon Light Infantry gave maximum fire support from the beach flank.
By Tuesday, troops detected the LTTE’s fourth bund some four kilometres away from the first bund. A heavy battle occurred in this area for several hours. Unable to withstand the assault from the military the LTTE who had suffered a large number of casualties moved further back towards the Chalai base.
By Wednesday, the troops were at a crucial point in the battle as the LTTE entered their last defence line to protect the Chalai base. At one point a young female suicide cadre had jumped in front of the Commando Regiment and exploded herself. However, only one Commando soldier was injured due to the blast.
With troops closing in on the Chalai base, the LTTE used at least eight separate teams and launched several waves of attacks on the military. But these attacks were repulsed by the troops causing heavy damages to the Tigers.
Meanwhile, the LTTE radio communication had confirmed the deaths of five top level leaders of the sea Tiger wing during the battle.
In one area two second level leaders Sinnakannan and Annavelan were killed on the spot when they came under artillery attack from the military. Holding the self styled ‘Lieutenant Colonel’ rank in the Sea Tiger wing, Sinnakannan had led many attacks against the Sri Lanka Navy. He is the leader of the Black Tiger unit of the Sea Tigers.
The other three second level leaders were third in-command of the Sea Tiger Wing Vinayagam alias Mike Four, Pahalawan and Kadar. All of them were holding the rank of ‘Lieutenant Colonel’ in the wing.
Vinayagam alias Mike Four was the Sea Tiger Wing’s third leader since September, 2008. He has over 25 years of experience in the wing and is blind in one eye. In the initial years of the LTTE, he was the bodyguard of the organisation’s second in command ‘Mahattaya’ who was later killed by Prabhakaran.
Vinayagam toured Norway in 2004 for fundraising .He functioned as the intelligence head of the Sea Tiger wing as well and hails from Marudankerni in Elephant pass.Palawana is also an experienced leader of the wing having fifteen years of service. A close confidant of Prabhakaran, he led over hundred devastating attacks on the Sri Lanka Navy including the failed attempt on the Passenger ship –Jet Liner. He was attached to the Pooneryn Sea Tiger wing.
Another second level leader who was killed is Kadar. He functioned as the Nachchikuda Sea Tiger leader. He had taken part in many ground operations in the last few months and was the area leader in Punchiparanthan when the 58-Division captured it a few weeks ago.
He had been in Chalai for a long period and was considered as one of main leaders who were able to carry out several crucial attacks on the Sri Lanka Navy. With the loss of five second level leaders of the Sea Tiger wing, the entire LTTE naval operations are paralyzed as almost all the attacks that the wing had carried out had been with the direct involvement of them.
LTTE under fire from International Community
As the final battle is underway between the security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the latter came under severe criticism from the international community and other International Non-government Organizations, for not allowing safe passage for some 150,000 people trapped in war torn Puthukuduirrippu, the last LTTE-held area.
The latest was a statement on Tuesday by the Co-chairs — United States, European Union, Japan and Norway –which urged the LTTE to lay down arms as there is no point of suffering more deaths. They also strongly advised that all civilians inside the LTTE-held areas should be released.
The LTTE has been holding these civilians in their controlled areas forcibly despite protests by those civilians. From time to time some thousands of civilians have managed to escape from the grip of the Tigers and reach military held areas. However, the situation that led to the release of the strong statement by the Co-chairs was the LTTE preventing about a one hundred thousand people who tried to enter the cleared areas on Tuesday. Hearing of this incident which was confirmed by ground sources, the Co-chairs immediately discussed and issued the statement urging the LTTE to release those civilians and advised them to lay down arms.
There were several statements issued by the international and local NGOs and prominent people indirectly urging the LTTE to release trapped civilians.
However, still there has been no strong opposition by the international community and the INGO’s over the LTTE’s decision to hold these civilians back. Being a terrorist organization, banned in more than a dozen countries, the pressure on the organization by the International Community has been minimal.
There has been no direct order given to the LTTE Leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran to surrender to the security forces after laying down arms or not even to consider the safety of those trapped civilians by making a path to enter cleared areas.
According to the civilians, who have just entered cleared areas the LTTE is now acting as barbarians and forcibly keeping people including infants, elders and patients under their control without releasing them.
They also said that several members of families had been forcibly recruited by the Tigers after giving them a brief weapons training. Last week, the LTTE made an announcement to the people trapped in Puthukuduirrippu area to join them as the organization had started its final battle against the Sri Lanka government also stating that they would be able to regain their lost territory very soon. Meanwhile, the LTTE had recalled the disabled and injured cadres to the battlefield as the troops advanced into the LTTE’s last stronghold in Puthukuduirrippu. According to ground sources a large number of disabled cadres such as those who had lost one limb have reportedly been deployed in the frontline.
The LTTE has also prevented the civilians coming to the 35 square kilomtres Safe Zone that was declared by the government. However, some civilians had managed to enter this zone and are waiting the arrival of troops in the area, some of the escaped civilians had said.
According to ground troops, the military had suffered a large number of casualties in the recent past as the LTTE had placed some of their heavy weapons close to the Puthukuduirrippu hospital, where hundreds of civilians are being treated. The troops had been unable to retaliate due to the proximity of weapons to the hospital.
The United Nations and ICRC confirmed that several civilians were killed and injured due to falling of shells on to the hospital. The military has denied firing and blamed the rebels for the alleged attack on the hospital. However there are no independent reports about the attack.
The military continuously request the people in uncleared areas to immediately move to cleared areas for their safety.
Meanwhile, in Puthukuduirrippu, troops had to delay their advance due to heavy resistance from the Tigers as they launched very fierce surprise attacks on the military during the weekend.
Engaging in its final battle, the LTTE had carried out an attack from the Naththikandal lagoon towards Mullaitivu west, killing several soldiers.
In order to curtail this attack the air force carried out dozens of raids in support to the 59 Division and Task force 4 troops on the ground. It is learnt that several soldiers had gone missing following the attack but now most of them had returned.
Sources said that the latest attack was led by the new leader of the LTTE military wing Theepan. The aim of the terrorists was to regain the lost ground in Mullaittivu to resurrect morale of their cadres. However, the Tigers suffered a heavy defeat as the military fought back.
Leaders abandoning the LTTE
With the continuous setbacks in the battlefield, several top level leaders of the LTTE are leaving the organizations. The latest was a senior member of the Sea Tiger wing, who was self styled ‘Lt Colonel’ in the LTTE. Intelligence reports revealed that he had tried to escape by sea to India a few weeks back from the Mullaitivu seas. But he had been captured and brought before the LTTE leadership. Since then there were no reports of his whereabouts and it is believed that he had been murdered or is under custody of Sea Tiger Special Leader ‘Soosai’.
Soon after losing the Tiger ‘capital’ Kilinochchi, most of the senior level leaders have fled and had reportedly escaped to India. According to a Sea Tiger senior member, who is now under military intelligence custody, it has been revealed that most of the senior leaders and normal fighters want to surrender but are unable to do so fearing they would be killed by the LTTE if caught. He had also revealed that senior leaders such as Soosai and Theepan had blamed the third level leaders for the continuous defeats. Last week, Soosai had blamed Gopith and Velavan for being unable to carry out a simultaneous attack against the military after blasting the Kalmadukulam Tank in Vishvamadu.