Force more than matches new Tiger weapon
The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) this week introduced fuel-air bombs for
the first time, more than matching the battlefield stakes raised by the
LTTE early last week by its gas attacks on troops at Akkarayankulam and
The impact of the new bomb was instant, as the LTTE’s expatriate
sympathisers began making immediate discreet calls to Colombo to inquire
and complain of air raids in Kilinochchi on Wednesday morning.
Wednesday’s introductory air raid over Wanni, with the new bomb, could
even be just a warning shot to the LTTE not to resort to any further
chemical strikes, as the return could be far more devastating
SLAF’s fuel-air bomb ‘sucks out’ Tigers
According to military analysts, the lethal new bomb is ideal to take out
Tigers from the thick jungles of Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu and could
even help expedite an end to the war. As the name fuel-air indicates, it
is a bomb that explodes on the surface, causing a fireball, while
sucking out air from everything in the vicinity. In other words, if the
fire ball does not kill an enemy combatant hiding in a fox hole, the air
sucked out of his lungs certainly will. So, while the SLAF has bunker
busters to take out LTTE command structures and leaders holed up in deep
bunkers, the fuel-air bomb will take care of the hardcore fighters it is
now throwing against advancing troops in the thick jungles.
Unlike the banned cluster bombs used liberally by the Israelis, even in
civilian areas, in its 1996 foray into Lebanon against Hisbullah forces,
there is no such ban on fuel-air bombs in its use against combatants.
Cluster bombs are truly lethal, as, on explosion, a single cluster bomb
releases many small bombs that can explode long afterwards, when
accidentally touched or handled, especially by playing children.
Ever since mustard gas was first used by German soldiers against allied
forces in World War 1, as a chemical weapon in warfare, such chemical
attacks are well known to terrorise fighting men. But fortunately, for
the soldiers, the Army immediately identified the substance used by the
Tigers on September 15 as CS gas, used in anti hijack operations and
issued gas masks to frontline troops as a counter measure.
The LTTE has no qualms about using whatever it can get hold of against
the security forces, and there is a history of it resorting to chemical
attacks. As far back as 1990, it used locally manufactured chemicals to
attack the Army’s Kiran camp at Trincomalee. On September 2, the Tigers
apparently spiked the fish supplied to Army’s Henanigala camp in the
East with cyanide, resulting in about 300 soldiers falling ill. Even
their erstwhile war hero Karuna Amman has recently warned that the
Tigers were capable of resorting to chemical warfare as a last ditch
Army Chief upbeat
Whether anyone likes it or not, Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka is
one who does not mince his words and on Thursday, in a bold and daring
advance warning to the Tigers, he told journalists gathered at the
National Library in Colombo that, by next week, forces will begin firing
the first shots to take Kilinochchi, the LTTE’s administrative
headquarters. He was speaking at the launch of the “Wanni Satana”, the
third book on the ongoing war by our sister paper Rivira’s Defense
Analyst Tissa Ravindra Perera.
With his troops within sight of some buildings in this Tiger nerve
centre by this Friday and only 100 metres from the main North-South A-9
road at certain points between Kokavil and Murukandi temple (five
kilometers south of Kilinochchi), the outspoken Army Commander has so
far certainly proved his critics and Cassandras who predicted doom for
the Army from the beginning, wrong.
Troops steadfast against stiff resistance
Knowing the Tigers, who are now finally throwing their hardcore units
into battle, it is certainly not going to be a cake walk in the
remaining stretches for the country’s fighting men, but the myth of the
Tiger invincibility woven by certain lobbies, has been badly dented.
This week too, as the Army neared Killinochchi outskirts, there
continued to be pitch battles, especially at places such as
Akkarayankulam, Vannivikilam, Vannarikulam and Nachchikuda, as the LTTE
sent reinforcements to these points, to breakthrough security forces
frontlines along the impressive bund cum trench defence line put up by
them, to halt the troops’ advance. But, as in all recent clashes, the
security forces beat back all these attempts, inflicting a heavy toll on
the Tigers, while themselves making some supreme sacrifices.
Kokavil falls after 18 years
One of the other major battlefield achievements this week was the
recapture of Kokavil after 18 years. Kokavil army camp fell to the LTTE
on July 11, 1990. Former Vidyartha Rugger captain, now leading the 57-2
Brigade Lt. Col. Senarath Bandara led his troops in taking the Kokavil
railway station on Thursaday. It must be noted that 57 Division
Commander Brig Jagath Dias had served as a young platoon commander in
Kokavil in 1983.
The Army Commander also strengthened the 57 Division this week, by
adding a fourth Brigade to it. The new 57-4 brigade is under the command
of Lt. Col. Senaka Wijesuriya.
Tiger top brass invisible
The targeting of Vattakachchi, a place frequented by Tiger supremo
Prabhakaran, by the SLAF last week, has sent fresh shock waves through
the LTTE hierarchy, as they are unable to find out how the forces came
to know of the secret location. The result has been even lesser
visibility of any of the Tiger leaders this week, along with total radio
silence by top men. Even Tiger military spokesman Illanthiriyan too, has
not been heard of in days. And Friday’s death anniversary of
Vaithilingam Sornalingam alias Col. Shankar, which the Tigers normally
mark in a big way, went almost unnoticed.
Shankar, a close lieutenant of Velupillai Prabhakaran, was blown up by a
claymore mine activated by the Army’s deep penetration unit on September
26, 2001 near Oddusudan. Tigers have commemorated his death along with
that of the death of Thiyagi Thileepan who died after a 12 day hunger
strike in 1987 on the same day, for the last seven years on a grand
While Shankar, in addition to being a close confidant of the LTTE
leader, pioneered many things for the organisation such as procurement
of weapons in the international arms market, its Sea Tiger wing and even
the air wing that has been making waves in the last two years, Theleepan,
the one time Tiger leader of Jaffna, became a martyr for them by fasting
unto death in September 1987, protesting the alleged failure of India to
fulfill its obligations under the Indo-Lanka accord of July that year.
Vigilant security pays off
Meanwhile, security forces and police continued to be on maximum alert,
especially, in Colombo this week, knowing very well the Tigers were
bound to make some desperate attempts in the South, in a vain attempt to
put the forces on the back foot. Such alertness brought some good
results as well, when police commandos recovered 565 grammes of C-4
plastic explosives from Hekitta, Wattala, along with a T-56 assault
rifle, two magazines, 125 bullets and a map on Wednesday. At Kohuwala on
the same day, a Tiger cadre was nabbed with a micro pistol. On Friday,
Negombo police recovered 100 grammes of C-4 explosives, a suicide kit
and some bomb making items found buried at Kudapaduwa, on information
provided by a Tiger cadre arrested at Katunayake. The cadre identified
as Ambu, had earlier lived in Malaysia, from where he had been deported
back to Sri Lanka.
Intelligence reports have also warned of an explosive laden vehicle
being ready for a massive attack in the south.
Last week’s timely recovery of a cluster of bombs buried in Batticaloa,
according to security sources, had been meant to target Eastern Chief
Minister Sivanesaturai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan, and he continues
to be a prime target of the Tigers.
But the Chief Priest of the historic Koneswaran Temple, Trincomalee, was
not so lucky last Sunday. He was gunned down by the Tigers around 6:00
p.m., while he was riding a motorbike on Fathima Street. Kurukkal Rev.
Thivathunaraja (43) was well known for his close cooperation with the
security forces in supporting development work in the area.
Downing of Tiger plane confirmed
While the arrival of 37 civilians in Pulmoddai on Thursady morning by
boats, after fleeing Alampil, Mulaitivu, was a welcome sign, it also
brought some confirmation about the downing of the first Tiger aircraft
early this month by an air force F-7 fighter, as it was fleeing after
dropping some bombs over security forces Wanni command base.
The group comprising five small boys, 10 little girls, eight women, and
14 men, told debriefers that some of their relatives living at
Iranapalai, situated north of Pudukuduirippu, had seen it crashing into
a school, killing both crew members.
Battle for the Wanni enters make or break stage
the deadline for aid workers to quit the LTTE controlled areas of the
Wanni expiring tomorrow, the battle for the Tigers’ de facto capital
Kilinochchi has now entered its final and most crucial stage….
When the history of a war or, even a battle, is being written, there
are, undoubtedly, decisive moments that will be identified in
retrospect, as the crucial points, which eventually, sealed the outcome
of the conflict in question. There is now, collective consensus that,
the coming weeks will most certainly be the deciding moments, which will
determine the outcome of the battle for the Wanni. After a gruesome
campaign of well over a year, the security forces are now within a
matter of kilometres of achieving one of its primary objectives,
capturing the de facto capital of the LTTE, Kilinochchi.
The signs are loud and clear that the military’s thrust into Kilinochchi
will be launched very soon, some even predict that it might happen as
soon as this week. Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, at a book launch
by Tissa Ravindra Perera, a journalist with our sister paper Rivira,
said that the “Army will fire its first salvo towards Kilinochchi by
next week”, adding that. the Army is now less than four kilometres from
the Kilinochchi town limits.
Another sign that things on the Wanni battlefront will intensify is the
deadline given to UN and NGO personnel to pull out of the region. Around
three weeks ago, the Defence Ministry informed all aid workers operating
in the uncleared areas of the Wanni, to relocate their personnel and
assets by September 29. The government, it seems, is keen to avoid
humanitarian workers being caught in the crossfire, with the memory of
the 17 aid workers massacred in Muttur, still fresh in their minds. This
time around, however, the Defence establishment has taken precautions to
minimise international outcry from a similar incident. Reliable NGO
sources say that the Defence Ministry has refused several requests to
extend this deadline, even by a few days. The pullout of the
humanitarian workers in the Wanni, is seen as a clear sign that the
battles will intensify in the coming days and weeks.
Though all eyes are now set on the Military’s anticipated frontal
assault on Kilinochchi, this week’s fighting indicated that the Army is
looking to consolidate its rear and ensure that its supply routes are
secure, before it attempts to take on the Tiger ‘capital’. This week saw
the Military getting ever more close to the vital artery running across
the Wanni, the A9 highway.
The 57 division which captured the important town of Mallavi early this
month, is now heading towards Mankulam. Those troops are less than four
kilometres from the strategic junction, the capture of which would open
up several options for the Army. A link-up with the troops now
dominating Kokkavil will further strengthen the rear of the divisions,
which would eventually advance towards Kilinochchi. What remains to be
seen is whether the Army will manoeuvre from Mankulam southwards to
capture the whole of the A9 from Omanthai. Until now the Army has not
advanced even a kilometre from Omanthai since the fighting began in the
region last year. A full out battle to capture the stretch of road might
bog down the Army for a longer period, since the LTTE is said to be
fortifying its defences around Puliayankulam and Kanakarayankulam along
the A9 which were the stalling points for Operation Jayasikuru a decade
ago. Also, fighting along the A9 between Omanthai and Mankulam would
ensure that all civilian movements towards Vavuniya will cease since it
is this road that the Defence Ministry has recommended for civilians to
take when fleeing the Wanni. However, after the attack on the Vavuniya
security forces headquarters this month, it was apparent that the
artillery attack which caused most damage to the security forces was
directed from the general area of Puliyankulam, around eight kilometres
north of the Omanthai check point. This prompted the military to
consider the advance along the A9 from Omanthai. Whether this action
will be taken prior to the final assault on Kilinochchi will be seen in
the next few weeks.
Reports reaching Colombo yesterday suggested that the Army has now
reached Kokkavil town, situated between Mankulam and Iranamadu on the
Kokkavil is of strategic interest, since it commands the high ground in
the area. A couple of decades ago, there was a TV transmission tower
located here, which was defended by a small Army garrison. With the
commencement of Eelam War II, after the collapse of peace talks with the
Ranasinghe Premadasa Administration in June 1990, the LTTE launched
simultaneous attacks on Army camps along the A9. The garrison at
Kokkavil was commanded by a young Captain named Saliya Upul Aladeniya,
who valiantly fought alongside his men, until the very end, refusing to
abandon the camp, even in the wake of its being overrun by the Tigers.
Aladeniya flatly refused to abandon his injured soldiers, many of whom
were in no state to be evacuated. Refusing orders to withdraw, Aladeniya
stayed with his men fighting valiantly, until an adjacent fuel dump
exploded, killing the majority of Army personnel at the camp.
Captain Aladeniya and more than 60 soldiers perished at Kokkavil in July
1990, which will be painfully remembered as the last time the Army was
in control of this small but strategic town. Aladeniya was posthumously
awarded the Parama Weera Vibhushanaya, the highest war time award for
Valour in the Sri Lanka Army, for his valiant defence of the Kokkavil
camp and for his leadership. The young Captain was the first recipient
of this prestigious award for courage. It is indeed a fitting tribute to
those soldiers led by Aladeniya, that their fellow comrades from the
Sinha Regiment are now in the process of retaking Kokkavil, a task that
has taken over 18 years.
The Army’s thrust towards Kilinochchi will pose the LTTE more than one
obvious problem of losing its de facto capital. Once the Army reaches
Kilinochchi, it is open terrain through Paranthan, up to Elephant Pass
(EPS), the narrow gateway to the Jaffna peninsula. If the Military is
able to make a rapid movement in this terrain, which is believed to be
favourable for tanks and armour, then, it is in a position to retake EPS
within a matter of days. An eventuality, which would jeopardise the
LTTE’s defences in the northern front, along the
Killali-Muhamali-Nagarkovil axis, and isolate its units now fighting in
the Nachchikudah and Pooneryn region, west of the A9. This possibility
seems to have dawned on the LTTE, which has in recent days pulled some
of its more hardcore fighting units from the northern defences, to fight
the Army south of Kilinochchi. It is now apparent that the LTTE would
make its final stand against the Army in the general area between
Akkarayankulam and the A9, where the main thrust towards Kilinochchi is
An experienced LTTE leader called Lawrence, has been redeployed from the
Jaffna defences, with several hardcore fighting units, to the
Akkarayankulam area this week. If these Tigers fail to halt the military
advance, it is safe to say that nothing would stand between the Army’s
march towards Kilinochchi and beyond.
The coming days will indicate whether the Army will launch its much
anticipated assault to take Kilinochchi or, whether it will consolidate
its supply routes, by taking the A9, before the final assault on the