Troops get toehold in Wanni
Once the Eastern Province, comprising Batticaloa, Ampara and
Trincomalee (BAT), was wrested control of, the next major target was
Mulativu in the Northern Province.
But, the Mannar district in the west and Vavuniya north provided the
buffer making Mulativu inaccessible. The districts of Mulativu and
Mannar overlap at the boundary.
To the west of the Giantís Tank in the Mannar District, are many small
tanks and lush paddy cultivation, while to the east, fewer tanks in the
scrub jungle. North east of the Giantís Tank is the dense Madhu jungles.
Through the Madhu jungles, the security forces could penetrate one of
the LTTE Forward Defence Lines (FDL) running from Vidalthivu on the
western coast to Pulliyakulam, north of Omanthai on the A-9 Road from
Vavuniya to Jaffna. The LTTE controls this road from Omanthai to
Muhamalai, running through the districts of Vavuniya, Mulativu and
To the south of the Madhu jungle, is the sanctuary of Madhu Matha.
Throughout the year, there are several feasts celebrated there, but the
August one draws lakhs of Catholics from the North and South.
Madhu is the meeting point for Tamil Catholics from the North and
Sinhalese Catholics from the South, even as Kataragama is the converging
point of Hindus from the North and Buddhists from the rest of the
Trial and error
The military, which tried the previous eastern approach to penetrate
the jungles in the Wanni, in small numbers, were not all that
successful. As we forewarned, it was not going to be a cake walk, given
that the Tigers were well entrenched and dug in, to prevent further
inroads into their main territory.
For months, the military tried to penetrate places such as
Thirukethiswaram and Andankulam west of Giantís Tank and to the east of
this tank, areas such as Vilattikulam, Pokkaravanni, Iranai
Illuppaikkulam, Periyathampanai and Thampanai, to no avail. A separate
57 strike Division was created for the purpose.
Teams stealthily entered north of the Madhu jungles at Periyamadu and
Palampiddi but did not make much progress.
The government tried to explain its attempts to wrest control of Madhu
by citing the request of Vatican Secretary Cardinal Tarcisco Bertone to
allow pilgrims to visit the holy shrine. The request was made on the
sidelines of an audience President Mahinda Rajapaksa had with Pope
Benedict XVI in April this year. The President maintained that it was
beyond government mandate, as long as the LTTE controlled Madhu.
The army controls the A-14 Road from Medawachchiya to Mannar and the
Navy controls the area beyond Mannar-Mannar Island including Tallaimanar.
On the A-14, there are three important points - the turn off on the
Madhu Road, closed since August 2006, by the army on the one side and
the LTTE on the other, after a stretch of no-manís land.
For the August feast this year, the military allowed civilians to use
the Uliyankulam Entry/Exit point to enter Madhu. But this point has been
closed, as operations are now taking place in the extreme west of the
Wanni. On account of the closure, aid workers donít have access to the
Musali Division and those based in Mannar are unable to access the
increasingly large caseload in Manthai West Division.
At Thallady, where the A-14 and the A-32, which is the road to Pooneryn,
meet, is a large army detachment.
As several efforts to penetrate west of Giantís Tank failed, the
government decided to capture areas behind the enemy lines north of the
current Madhu jungles. This is to make the entrenched impregnable places
south, redundant, as supplies and reinforcements would get automatically
cut off, forcing the LTTE to withdraw its beleaguered cadres. This
tactic referred to as Ďbypassing the enemy line behind it,í was also
used in Operation Jayasikuru.
Hence, the military thrust was to secure places such as Adampan,
Palampiddi and extending it up to Puliyankulam, by moving east from here
and north from Omanthai.
The FDL crossing at Omanthai closed from November 29, for civilians
moving from the Wanni into government controlled areas, was reopened on
A few weeks back, under pressure, the LTTE deserted Vietnam Base at
Mullipallam, which was one of the main supply bases for the Wanni FDL.
The LTTE had launched operations from Vietnam Base, to prevent the
military from wresting control of Madhu.
At Adampan, in the Mannar District, a predominantly Catholic area,
December 1 dawned to the sound of gunfire.
Troops broke out of their FDLs at the crack of dawn, with the intent of
wresting control of Adampan, which had been under Tiger control from the
nineties. Adampan is situated in the Manthai West Division. Troops met
with heavy resistance, as the first round of fighting lasted two and a
half hours. This was one of the fiercest battles since Wanni operations
began. Nine Tigers were killed and four dozens wounded, according to the
military, which admitted three killed in action (kia) and 10 wounded in
Troops for this operation were drawn from 8 Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment (SLSR)
commanded by Lt. Col. Ramesh Fernando, 2 Commando Regiment commanded by
Maj. D.M.J. Balasuriya and 3 Commando Regiment under Lt. Col. Uditha
Bandara. The operation was commanded by Task Force 01 under Brig.
Tiger tooth and nail
Fearing that the security forces would proceed north from Adampan,
to take control of Vidattaltivu, where the LTTE FDL begins on the
extreme west, cadres from the Charles Anthony Brigade hit back several
times in a bid to retake Adampan. There were three retaliatory strikes
on Sunday and Monday. The military claims 35 Tigers and six soldiers
died in the retaliatory strikes to retake Adampan. Another two dozen
soldiers were wounded as troops held on to newly secured territory, now
On Saturday (01) evening, 57 Divisional Commander Brig. Jagath Dias
launched another operation east of Vavuniya to secure
Periyapandirichchan, which had been under LTTE control from the late
nineties. Troops from the 7 Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI) commanded by
Col. U.R. Abeyratne were drawn for the operation.
On account of the operations in Vavuniya and Mannar, 3,071 families
(10,302 persons) and 6,328 families (23,662 persons) respectively, have
been displaced from the districts.
It was likely that a fresh front would be opened up in Weli Oya, now
that the 59 Division, including a Deputy General Officer Commanding and
three brigade commands have been established, as reported several weeks
back in this column.
It was probably to prevent operations in Weli Oya, that the LTTE
launched the Kebithigollewa claymore blast as a diversionary attack to
make its present felt. Fifteen people died in the blast that hit the bus
heading for Janakapura from Medawachchiya. New procedures have been
implemented at the Medawachchiya checkpoint, including vehicle checks
and registration of even UN vehicles. In protest, the NGO Consortium in
Vavuniya and local NGOs there, as well as in Mannar, held a one-day
strike on Wednesday (05), to draw attention to the threats humanitarian
workers were facing. The work of humanitarian workers in a war situation
must be appreciated not just on Human Rights Day tomorrow, but always.