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
583 Brigade under Lt. Col. Suraj Bangsajayah, 6 Gemunu under Lt. Col.
Kamal Pinnawala, and 8 Gemunu under Suminda Jayasundara advanced with
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
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
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
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
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)