Military Matters

Pooneryn as good as fallen

Whatever the well rehearsed pundits may say of their oft repeated manthram about “there can never be a military solution to the conflict”, for the security forces (SF), what has worked is the strategy of ‘either kill or be killed’, when dealing with the Tigers. And that is the only thing that the LTTE understands and the only thing that has brought the forces success.
Even under the internationally sponsored cease-fire, the Tigers stuck to their sole aim of wiping out anyone who stood in their way, as if they were the sole proprietors of terror tactics. Now, they are being paid back with interest. There is no other option left to an elected government. But, at the same time, now is also the time to guarantee the Tamils and, for that matter, all citizens of this country, their right to live without any fear for their life, limb and property as equal citizens.

Taking the fight to the Tigers
With the SF on the offensive from about the middle of 2006, after repeated Tiger provocations, like numerous ambushes staged against troops observing the Norwegian drafted cease-fire, attempt on the life of the Army Commander in April 2006 and the shutting down of water from Mavil Aru, the Tigers have been celebrating their annual Maha Veerar Day (Great Heroes’ Day) on November 27, in increasingly subdued terms, unlike in the past, when they staged some spectacular attacks in November. The day prior to Maha Veerar Day also marks Prabhakaran’s 54th birthday. So, now, it has literally come to the point of do or die for the Tiger supremo himself. It is interesting to note that, the Norwegians were solely interested in selling the much violated cease-fire to the government of Sri Lanka, despite their pet, the Tiger, violating it at will.

Army Commander Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka, who has easily outperformed the LTTE in this strategy of matching their tactics, declared last Monday in Anuradhapura that, “within a matter of three weeks, we were able to eliminate 488 Tiger cadres, while recovering 60 of those bodies. Never in the history of the Army have we fought the enemy face to face nonstop like this. Prabhakaran has boasted that, the capture of Kilinochchi by the SF, is only a daydream of President Rajapakasa. It is not a daydream, but will be a living record. We will attack the enemy day and night. Despite these terrorist boasts, no one can undervalue the Army’s victories.” He was speaking at the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the Gajaba Regiment.

Adding more muscle

Obviously, with that strategy in mind, the Army inducted its newest fighting unit, Task Force 111 against the Tigers in the Kilinochchi District last Monday, to supplement Task Force 111 and the 57 Division that have already accounted very well against the enemy west of the A-9 Highway. Task Force 111 has taken up position in between 57 Division and Task force 11 in the general area west of A-9 between Kokavil and Mankulam.

On the first day itself, 7th Sinha Regiment, operating under 63-3 Brigade of this Task Force, killed six Tigers and also managed to recover two bodies along with their weapons from their bunkers. Later intercepts of Tiger communications revealed that, more than 20 other cadres had been injured in this first encounter. Then, on Thursday, it had much greater success in an operation conducted in Kokavil South. At the end of which, it recovered bodies of seven Tiger cadres, along with a General Purpose Machine Gun, five T-56 assault rifles and one T-81 rifle. In this encounter, it has been established that at least 20 Tigers were killed.

Though the Army can take over a wide swathe of the A-9 Highway at any time, it is not doing it so as to maintain the humanitarian supply line to Tiger held areas via Omanthai. But this has not prevented it from taking out Tiger movements on this vital roadway linking Jaffna and Kandy. This has been done so well by the 57-4 Brigade under Lt. Col. Senaka Wijesuriya, that the Tigers have stopped using much of this road.

The 16th Sinha Regiment, waiting in ambush for a Tiger target on the A-9 for several weeks, suddenly came across an armour plated tractor last Sunday and immediately engaged it, killing a Tiger cadre and wounding two others. On the previous day, early morning, the same unit fired at a suspicious ground movement. It was later revealed that three Tigers had been killed in the attack. On the same day, the 10th Light Infantry had fired at a Tiger movement on its stretch of A-9, killing five of them.

With things getting too hot for the Tigers on all fronts and India realising that the LTTE would attempt to find safe havens in Tamil Nadu, it has, in recent days and weeks, deployed additional vessels to prevent Tiger infiltration, especially, into its southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Next stop Pooneryn

The way Task Force 1, led by Brig. Shavendra Silva, is advancing along the A-32 Highway and its surroundings, with Commandos and Special Forces spearheading operations behind enemy lines, it all points to this road link between Jaffna and the South being reopened long before A-9, through the restoration of the Sengupiddy causeway.

With the last remaining Tiger strongpoint on this stretch, Pooneryn likely to fall in the coming weeks, if not within the next few days, the taking of the A-32 will also mean the reopening of a land link to Jaffna after about 20 years. It gradually fell into LTTE hands with the departure of the IPKF in early 1990. Task Force 1 troops are now only some seven kilometers from the Jaffna lagoon on this route and only about five kilometers from Paranthan-Pooneryn road. Once the Paranthan road is interdicted, there is no way the LTTE can hold on to Pooneryn and its smuggling operations with Tamil Nadu on the western coast too will cease.

The LTTE, in the past, had established fortified positions in Pooneryn on the lagoon side, expecting a sea borne assault across the lagoon. With troops advancing day and night, disregarding the monsoon, they have now arrived in the area, much to the surprise of the Tigers. With commando and Special Forces units operating behind enemy lines it will not be long before troops attack the strategic town from front and the rear.

With the opening of A-32, not only will key SF positions in the peninsula such as Palali be safe from Tiger artillery, it will also facilitate easy transport of troops between Jaffna and the rest of the country by land. At present, all troop movement between the peninsula and the South is by either sea or air. It also means that, Naval resources, now deployed to provide cover to troop transport vessels, can be used for more vital patrol duties. It is also expected to bring down the cost of transporting goods to the peninsula.

Small is effective

This week, small commando units operating along the A-32 and on its western side, continued their ambushes to interdict Tiger supply lines. In one attack staged in the Kiranchi area, on the right side of A-32, a tractor load of Tiger cadres were taken out, killing 10 of them. On the same day, in Madam area, six more were killed. Due to these unceasing ambushes, the LTTE later withdrew from Kiranchi village and Palavi area.

Troops of 11th Light Infantry, led by Lt. Col. Kithsiri Ekanayake, on Tuesday broke through a Tiger defence line constructed at Palliyalkulam. They recovered bodies of two Tigers along with five assault rifles, three communication sets and a tractor load of food items. Lt. Kasun Ranchagoda of Charlie Company led the assault. Capt. Lalantha Kollure leading Delta Company of the same regiment last Saturday destroyed three bunkers situated West of Palliyalkulam. Here they recovered the bodies of 11 Tiger cadres, along with their weapons and a communication set. Three eight-member teams undertook this successful operation.
“Pooneryn’s fall will free the four fighting Divisions now deployed on the west of A-9, to take on the entire east of the A-9. Already, Tigers are without any strength south of Mankulam, with only five of their cadres remaining at Omanthai. Below Mankulam, they have already abandoned their positions in Puttur and Puliyankulam. We have bypassed Kilinochchi and advanced 10 kms. north on its left flank”, Gen. Fonseka said.

Akkarayankulam falls

Troops of 57 Division, under the command of Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias, bagged a big prize this week, when they captured the entire village of Akkarayankulam on Thursday. The 12th Sinha Regiment, led by Lt. Col. Jayampathy Bandara, and the 9th Gajaba, led by Lt. Col. Chandana Somaweera (both units coming under 57-1 Brigade commanded by Col. G.V. Ravipriya) were pivotal in the capture of this village. The 12th Sinha advanced from the west and the 9th Gajaba from the east. In this operation, 12th Sinha alone had killed about 25 Tigers, in the space of four days they took to overrun the village. In a clash on Tuesday, it killed four LTTE cadres and captured a Multi-Purpose Machine gun, one T-56 assault rifle and a communication set. The 9th Gajaba troops who too fought their way through the east of the town over several days, killed about 30 Tigers.
Tiger military commander in Kilinochchi, Banu, later sent three to four waves of attacks to oust the troops from Akkarayankulam village, without success.