The next few hours will be very crucial for both the Sri Lanka Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as the decades long war that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Sri Lankans appears to be coming to an end.
The ongoing battle – which the ground troops describe as an ‘hours long battle’ will decide the fate of the world’s most ruthless terrorist leader Vellupuillai Prabhakaran and his close senior level leaders with the advancing troops only hundreds of meters away from them.
The final breakthrough in the hunt for Prabhakaran and his leaders commenced on May 07, when the newly appointed General Officer Command of the 59 Division, Brigadier Prasanna Silva moved his most battle hardened soldiers to the front in order to cross the water path, that connected the Nanthikandal Lagoon to the sea in Mullaitivu.
Brigadier Silva, who had traveled almost 65 kilometres with his troops from Nagarkovil, had crossed several waterways suffering only a few casualties. His task was to cross the waterway connecting Nagarakovil in order to further reduce the LTTE-held areas.
Since May 7, under directions of Brigadier Silva troops of the 59 Division were busy digging trenches across the small sand stretch between the Mullaitivu mainland and South of Vellamullivaikkal, from the sea front.
Their main purpose was to create a path through which the troops could infiltrate the LTTE held areas on the opposite side where thousands of mines were buried and armed LTTE cadres were guarding.
On May 10, in the dark, several small groups moved through the trenches into LTTE held areas, where a massive earth bund had been built by the Tigers. Troops that secretly infiltrated the earth bund had to temporarily withdraw for a day to regroup as the LTTE attacked the advancing troops using heavy artillery weapons.
On May 12, the troops again advanced with the support from small arms, including rocket propelled grenades, and light machine guns, that gave cover to the advancing troops. With this assistance the troops succeeded in capturing a small area of the heavily mined earth bund, the military casualties were minimum due to the success of the operation.
The initial onslaught was launched by the 6 Light Infantry after the troops of the 12 Gemunu Watch cleared the path for them. Later the 12 Light Infantry soldiers joined them near the earth bund, where a fierce battle continued for several hours.
Several soldiers were initially injured when they stepped on to the heavily mined area , but later the troops were able to clear the path and successfully fought back causing heavy damage to the LTTE.
They then proceeded towards the north on the coastal belt and gained full control of a stretch of some 300 metres. The troops dominated this area and commence to consolidate their position amidst a rain of LTTE fire.
Hours after the capture of the beach front, the LTTE launched a surprise sea-borne suicide attack on the military, who had just concluded the construction of bunkers facing the beach front.
Suicide cadres on board in five LTTE small boats smashed into the military line on the night of the same day in order to cause heavy damage to the military. On sighting the LTTE boats coming towards the land, troops opened fire at the fleet of suicide boats, but three of the fast attack boats hit land with the sound of huge explosions shattering the area. Troops were able to prevent one boat hitting the land as they fired and killed the rider. Later the boat was brought in containing the body of the LTTE cadre. Another boat, which was part of the fleet, had however managed to escape to LTTE held land.
It was later revealed that due to the three suicide blasts, at least seven soldiers were killed and several others injured.
According to the troops, the LTTE’s intention was to launch an amphibious attack after splitting into small groups on the shore in the dark and direct a ground attack on troops engaged in rescuing innocent civilians trapped in terrorist-held areas.
However, the troops valiantly fought till about 1.30 a.m. in the early hours on Wednesday and killed many of the LTTE cadres while inflicting heavy casualties to the cadres who withdrew towards the sea.
Troops took immediate action to secure the beach front by setting up more bunkers to prevent such attacks in the future and the infiltration of LTTE cadres into the military held areas. In Chalai and Chundikulam similar attempts had been made by the LTTE once the areas were captured by the military.
After securing the area, troops started to move across the land towards the Nanthikadal Lagoon. In the meantime, additional troops were waiting at the south edge of Wadduval Bridge.
Soldiers later entered the southeast of Sarvarthottam, next to the south of Vellamullavaikkal after a fierce battle, but considering the previous day’s fighting, the LTTE fire power was very low.
By Wednesday evening, troops were able to meet the A-35 road northern edge of Wadduval Bridge and with that, troops were able to take full control of the entire Bridge without much difficulty as the troops from the southern edge too crossed over to the bridge.On Tuesday, the LTTE operating inside the ‘New Safety Zone’ (NFZ) in Karayanmullivaikkal conducted three suicide missions within a matter of three hours as the troops were inching into the area where the 58 Division was heading in the northern front.
These LTTE suicide cadres hiding inside bunkers detonated powerful suicide kits and blew themselves up with the intention of harming the troops. Ten Tigers were feared killed in these explosions and the troops found the dead bodies scattered all over three places ahead of them.
Troops capture LTTE improvised Multi Barrel Rocket launcher
The troops of the 58 Division, now dominating in Karayanmullivaikkal area captured one more LTTE improvised Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) when the Tigers were attempting to take it back after fierce confrontations with the Army on Wednesday morning.
Heavy resistance offered by the troops compelled the terrorists to withdraw further into the south in the ‘New Safety Zone’ while taking this improvised MBRL with them, but intensified firepower of the troops forced the terrorists to slow down their retreat. Troops immediately surrounded them and succeeded in taking the MBRL.
Troops in the aftermath of the battle found seventy T-56 weapons, six light machine guns, two 60 mm mortars and many other LTTE items from the area.
Aircraft parts recovered
In another development troops of 57 Division unearthed, what confirmed to be a stock of LTTE light aircraft accessories from Puthukkudiyiruppu east area.
Wednesday’s unexpected recovery of one four cylinder engine, three propellers, one aircraft radio set, five aircraft main wheels, three nose wheels, two partly-used main wheels, four pilot headphones, three battery chargers, three digital meters, three computer graphic manuals, ground marshalling torches, flying (aerial) computers, two flying simulation units, twenty-three runway lights, four head lights, two ordinary runway lights, bolts, transmitters, flying maps, three marine radars, thirty-five high speed boat engines, one water scooter laden with explosives, one aircraft towing carrier, put all theories, regarding LTTE’s air capabilities to an end once and for all, since the troops and the Sri Lanka Air Force have by now destroyed the entire LTTE air fleet while debunking their exaggerated theories.
All these aircraft accessories had been concealed and kept buried after wrapping them neatly in polythene, inside a large coconut grove at the time the troops started digging in with the help of earth moving machines.
Troops also found several videos of the LTTE from this location, which showed LTTE pilots operating a small chopper in the presence of the LTTE leader in some undisclosed location in the Wanni. Soon after the successful ride, the video showed, Prabhakaran shaking hands with the pilot.
LTTE destroying its equipment
Latest LTTE communication and intelligence information revealed that the LTTE has now decided to withdraw from the battlefield, as the military was further advancing towards the ‘safe zone’.
Accordingly, on Wednesday morning the LTTE leadership had ordered the destruction of all the Computers and other documents belonging to the organization and the storing of the data to Compact Discs (CDs) as much as possible. . The LTTE leadership has also directed that all operational vehicles should be destroyed.
The Military believe that with the shortage of ammunitions and cadres the LTTE is planning to withdraw into the sea. This was reconfirmed as several other LTTE senior leaders through their communication systems have ordered all the boat operators to report back to Soosai by Wednesday evening.
Soon after this development, the Navy, which is having four tight defence lines in the Mullaitivu seas, went on high alert to prevent any escape of the LTTE.
Large suicide boat found
A 55-feet long LTTE suicide boat, laden with some 1500 kg of high explosives was uncovered by the 53 Division troops when the troops were moving further into the beach area on Wednesday afternoon.
The suicide boat, plastered with claymore mines around its hull has been kept hidden under the bushes by the side of the beach at the time troops discovered it. It is believed that the Tiger terrorists, intending to launch a fierce assault on the troops at any given time had hidden the boat inside a well concealed area with creepers and bushes.