Military Matters

Forces overrun


The 58 Brigade that captured the Rice Bowl in Mannar spread over an area of 152 sq kms, after LTTE domination of more than 23 years, proceeded to Vidattaltivu. Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka entrusted the task to General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 58 Brigade Brig. Shawendra Silva.

It was of significance that 57 Brigade under Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias that set off from Vavuniya on the day following the capture of the Rice Bowl (June 30) met 58 Brigade at the Pallemadu front. They launched the operation to capture Vidattaltivu on July 1.

The 10th Gajaba, under Lt. Col. Sarada Samarakoon, and the 12th Gajaba under Maj. Saliya Amunugama of 581 Brigade under Lt. Col. Deshapriya Gunawardene was advancing from the 12th-milepost on Pooneryn (A32) highway. The 5th Armoured Corp under Lt. Col. Nihal Samarakoon joined them.

583 Brigade under Lt. Col. Suraj Bangsajayah, 6 Gemunu under Lt. Col. Kamal Pinnawala, and 8 Gemunu under Suminda Jayasundara advanced with 581 Brigade.
582 Brigade under Col. Sanjaya Wanigasinghe, 9 Gemunu under Lt. Col. Lal Chandrasiri, and 12 Gemunu under Lt. Col. Nandana Dunuvila advanced from the east of Vidattaltivu. The 2nd Commando Regiment under Lt. Col. Jayantha Balasuriya that advanced from the same direction was in the forefront.

The LTTE had erected a 10-km Forward Defence Line (FDL) from the sea about 2 kms south of Vidattaltivu up to Paramarankulam, east of Vidattaltivu. It was reinforced with a rear defence line and covered with earth up to about 10 metres. They had laid booby traps and dug trenches around the FDL and erected bunkers at every 150 to 200 metres.

While the LTTE overestimated the strength of their FDL, the 2nd Commando Brigade advanced from the south of Vidattaltivu and the west of Paramarayankulam. The Light Infantry Regiments of 582 Brigade joined the advancing forces.
The 581 and 583 Brigades were planning to break into the LTTE FDL from the direction of Nedunkandal. Commander of the 2nd Commando Regiment, Lt. Col. Jayantha Balasuriya was ready to launch a surprise attack on the LTTE FDL.

Bravo platoon of the 2nd Commando Brigade under Capt. Bandara Subesinghe, made up of three 4-man teams under Sgt. Asitha Kumara, Cpl. N.V. Wanasinsghe and LCpl Indika Kumarage, burst upon the LTTE FDL and gunned down 28 LTTE cadres. This led Mannar LTTE leader Laxman to reinforce the FDL by deploying 46 cadres.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Commando Brigade that removed the booby traps, advanced from another direction. 58 Brigade launched attacks on strategic locations from July 1 to 10. More than 100 LTTE cadres were killed during the period.
The Army Chief ordered Brig. Shavendra Silva to go ahead with the main operation to invade Vidattaltivu. The 8-man team of the 2nd Commando Regiment was prepared for the operation from last Thursday (10).

The team was approaching Vidattaltivu from all directions. A stretch of the Mannar-Pooneryn Road was under observation by the 8-man team of Lt. Marasinghe of Delta group under Maj. Jaliya Dehideniya. Alfa group of 2nd Commando Regiment under Maj. Samantha Kodituwakku attacked an LTTE bunker in Walimarandamadu area on July 13. Following day, a group of terrorists erecting a bunker came under attack by the 8-man team of Sgt. Sanjeewa. Seven terrorists were killed in the confrontation.

Meanwhile, Echo group under Capt. Sha Hameed and the 8-man team of Cpl Rajakaruna were advancing from the direction of Paramarayankulam, east of Vidattaltivu.
Capt. Nalin Soysa was the acting Officer Commanding (OC) of Bravo group under Maj. Ratnayake. The platoons under Lt. Thusitha Kumarage and Sgt Kumarasinghe(Rodney) were advancing along the Uvilanundiyaru canal bank in Vidattaltivu. Lt. Marasinghe’s and Cpl. Chandralal’s teams were about 600 metres behind them. The 8-man teams of Echo group under Capt. Sha Hameed and the 8-man groups of Sgt. Rodney, Sgt. Bandara and Lt. Thusitha Kumarage advanced from several directions and joined them.

They had reached the target area and were ready for the operation. Meanwhile, Brig. Shavendra Silva, and his staff under Lt. Col. Harendra Ranasinghe were busy making arrangements for the operation.
Col. Weerawardene was in charge of coordinating the attacks of the Artillery and Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) Regiments.

Director Operations, Brig. Udaya Perera was in charge of the overall coordination with the Officers in the battlefield.
Director Operations, Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), Air Vice Marshal Harsha Abeywickrema in close coordination with the GOC 58 Brigade deployed MI 24 Gunships under Flt. Lt. Sameera Gunawardene to coordinate aerial attacks in the battlefield.
By last Tuesday (15) LTTE cadres had been deployed at regular intervals of 150 metres on access roads to Vidattaltivu and Pooneryn.

Maj. Kanchan Seneviratne, Capt. Nishantha Bandara and Capt. Ganganath backed by Commandos, launched artillery and mortar attacks.
The Tigers, realising that Vidattaltivu was under siege, started to retreat by Tuesday afternoon.
Cpl Chandralal’s team that climbed up a tamarind tree got at their targets accurately. The fugitive LTTE cadres transporting their heavy weapons by tractors and Canter lorries came under artillery attack in Thaddampiddi teak plantation losing at least 50 of them.

By Wednesday morning (16), the terrorists destroyed their vehicles and the main water tank in Vidattaltivu. They blasted the buildings and the vehicles one by one. Meanwhile, Echo group of Capt. Sha Hameed lay in ambush to target vehicles leaving Vidattaltivu base. They gunned down two cadres attempting to flee on a motorcycle. The soldiers immediately hid the bodies and prepared for the next attack.

The soldiers noticed two trucks moving towards Vidattaltivu. When they opened fire, one truck sped off despite gunshot injuries to its driver while the other ran off the road and turned turtle. One of the cadres was captured. The two trucks had come to move camp at Vidattaltivu.

Sgt. Bandara, Sgt. Kumarasinghe and Lt. Thusitha Kumarage proceeded toward Vidattaltivu by the west of the main road. LCpl. Priyantha and his team joined them.
Bravo group was advancing from the east of Vidattaltivu and Delta group from the southeast. When the four groups met, they were about a km. ahead of Vidattaltivu.

Alpha group under Maj. Samantha Kodituwakku entered from the direction of the town and Echo group from the direction of the lagoon. Bravo group entered from the east.
The 581 and 583 Brigades broke into the FDL from the direction of Nedunkandala. 6 Gemunu broke down a part of the FDL. The base, earlier manned by about 200 LTTE cadres, was deserted in the face of the military operation.
The advancing Commandos, under LTTE gunfire, broke into the LTTE stronghold. Vidattaltivu town fell to the security forces by Wednesday afternoon. They painted over “Welcome to Vidattaltivu Sea Tiger Base” on a board at the entrance to the camp with “Welcome to Commando Base”, hoisted the Lion Flag and celebrated their victory.

Meanwhile, three fugitive Sea Tiger craft and Sea Tiger base at Walleipadu, north of Vidattaltivu, came under air strike.
“It was a successful operation. Our forces marched steadily and intensified their attacks after July 14. LTTE leaders Bhanu and Luxman lost control of their forces. Our soldiers fought valiantly and broke down the most formidable LTTE FDL. The Tigers fled from the area faster than they did during the attack on the Rice Bowl. Their leaders had nowhere to turn,” said Brig. Shavendra Silva.

The Engineering Corp undertook the most arduous task of defusing the booby traps and anti-personnel mines.
Only LCpl Kumara, who got caught to a booby trap, was killed in the operation to capture the LTTE base.
The security forces consolidated their positions up to a distance of three kms. from Vidattaltivu.

The largest and the most strategically important Sea Tiger base in the western sea belt was the one at Vidattaltivu. It was located in an area similar to a natural harbour. The ferry was used by the LTTE ever since they started the Eelam war. The area was occupied by the LTTE after the IPKF left the country in 1990. In 1994, an unsuccessful attempt was made to capture this Sea Tiger base used by the LTTE to smuggle arms and ammunition from India. The LTTE forces in the Vanni received their supplies through Vidattaltivu, where the LTTE extorted from traders transporting produce from the North. After the capture of this economic nerve centre of the LTTE, they will be compelled to find alternative sources of income.
The Light Infantry Regiments are now advancing towards Iluppakadavai, their next target. A rendezvous of the LTTE cadres at Iluppakadawai came under air strike on Thursday (17)

572 Brigade under Lt. Col. Senerath Bandara was advancing towards Thunukkai. 3 Gajaba under Maj. Sanjaya Fernando had attacked LTTE cadres and captured their truck. Meanwhile, on Friday, three large Sea Tiger craft transporting cargo, came under air strike in the sea off Mullativu. One of the craft was destroyed at sea while another on shore. Air Force Media Spokesman Wg. Cmd. Janaka Nanayakkara said that several lorries and tractors were waiting for the Sea Tiger crafts to transport them. The vehicles also came under aerial attack.

(Tissa Ravindra Perera)
Courtesy Rivira