OPERATIONS: UPDATE - 10 JANUARY 2008
Captive civilians and Tiger cadres may
turn guns on LTTE leadership
Wanni Security Forces Commander Maj. Gen.
Jayasuriya says, this week alone, over 50 bodies of LTTE cadres
recovered during operations in his command area were handed over to the
Rohan Abeywardena and Tissa Ravindra Perera
If the previous Friday was a very significant day for the Army with the
capture of the LTTE symbolic capital Killinochchi, about whose defence
the Tigers had boasted so much, this Friday’s liberation of the stretch
of A-9 Highway on the neck of Jaffna along with the eight kilometer
width of land, was even sweeter.
During a period of nearly nine years since the fall of the Elephant Pass
to the LTTE in April 2000, the soil of this approximately 20 kilometre
long stretch, is literally soaked with the blood of combatants of both
sides. In at least five previous attempts to advance on this stretch,
from the peninsula, from the time of Chandrika Kumaratunga’s rule had
all ended unsuccessfully.
In the first major attempt to retake this stretch under the command of
Maj. Gen Sunil Tennakoon in April 2001 during President Chandrika’s
regime, the Army suffered about 600 casualties before “Operation Agni
Kheela” was abandoned.
During those several attempts from the Army alone, some 70 officers and
700 other ranks have laid down their lives, while many more suffered
injuries. The Tigers have never disclosed their true casualties.
The fall of Elephant Pass (EPS) in April 2000 too, was very costly to
the Army not only strategically, in losing this “Gateway to Jaffna”, but
even in terms of men and material. As recounted by President Mahinda
Rajapaksa in his address to the nation on Friday to announce the
significant victory, in 2000 during the EPS debacle, 359 military
personnel were killed, 349 were listed as Missing in Action and some
2500 were injured.
In the five day operation to finally take back this stretch from Monday
to Friday this week, compared to previous forays, the casualties this
time was minimal. The 55 Division which took the stretch north of A-9
lost five soldiers, while 58 others were injured, nine of them
seriously. The 53 Division which captured the area south of A-9 lost 12
soldiers and 67 others were injured, most with minor wounds.
On Thursday on this stretch, the victorious Forces took back the town of
Palali. But though many are not aware, this town has some significance
in the life of Army Commander Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka. In September 1993
when much of the Jaffna peninsula was under the LTTE control, the Sea
Tigers based at Kilaly were a big nuisance to the Security Forces based
at Pooneryn, across the lagoon, staging frequent night raids.
In order to teach the Sea Tigers a lesson, “Operation Yal Devi” was
launched from Elephant Pass to destroy the Tiger infrastructure at
Kilaly, and some say to recapture the stretch up to Chavakachcheri.
The Operation Yal Devi was launched on September 28, led by then
comparatively young Col. Sarath Fonseka. As Col. Fonseka led his men,
the first day everything went smoothly and the advancing force camped
near the Pallai railway station that night, but for their bad luck the
following morning their tried and tested commander was badly injured
when an enemy shell landed in his vicinity. With him out of the battle
field, all hell broke loose when the LTTE launched an attack on the
advancing column. In the ensuing chaos the Army lost the lives of more
than one hundred of its men and many more were wounded.
According to an officer who was injured in that battle, things became so
disorganised with the lacuna created in the command structure by the
unexpected and sudden departure of Col. Fonseka, the enemy even managed
to drag away some of the Army injured. Among the officers killed on that
day was young Lieutenant Jayatillake, a nephew of Lt. Gen Hamilton
Wanasinghe On the third day, however the Army resumed the Yal Devi
advance and completed its task of destroying the Sea Tiger facility at
Kilaly and returned to base at EPS on October 02.
Incidentally Gen. Wanasinghe also lost his son-in-law Brig. Bhatiya
Jayatillake during the debacle at Elephant Pass seven years later. Like
many others who lost their lives during the fall of EPS, he too died of
dehydration as the enemy had earlier managed to capture Iyakachchi from
where the EPS base obtained its water supplies.
According to Wanni Security Forces Commander Maj. Gen Jagath Jayasuriya,
with the capture of the last remaining stretch of A-9 Highway that was
in the hands of the LTTE this week, as many as eight fighting divisions
are now free to encircle the last remaining stronghold of the enemy, the
Mulaitivu District. Even the fall of Mulaitivu Town was imminent with
troops of the 59 Division taking much of the last defence bund there by
Gen. Jayasuriya said he wouldn’t be surprised if the captive civilians
and ordinary Tiger cadres revolted against the LTTE leadership at any
time now, because of the precarious state they have got themselves into.
In his command area alone, he said this week they had handed over to the
ICRC more than 50 bodies of LTTE cadres they had recovered during
Some units of the 58 Division that were marching north on the A-9 since
the capture of Paranthan the previous Wednesday recaptured Elephant Pass
this Monday after nearly nine years, effectively cutting off the main
supply route to Tigers stationed from there to Muhamalai, leaving them
with only one supply line to the region from Mulaitivu along the
The Peninsula based 55 and 53 Divisions commanded by Brig. Prasanna de
Silva and Brig Kamal Guneratna which captured the LTTE First Defence
Line at Muhamnalai last November after heavy fighting too, got activated
once again and resumed a fresh drive at about 10:00 p.m. on Monday. This
was also the first major push by these two divisions coming under the
new Jaffna Commander Maj. Gen. Mendaka Samarasinghe.
The 55-2 Brigade under Col. Kapila Vidurapola and 55-3 Brigade led by
Col. Mahinda Weerasuriya initially grabbed 3.5 kilometres from Muhamalai
to the mangroves. These two brigades included Eighth Wijayaba, Seventh
Wijayaba and Sixth Infantry Regiments.
The 53 Division which advanced along the stretch south of A-9 consisted
of Air Borne Brigade commanded by Col. Shantha Dissanayake. Lt. Col.
Jayanath Jayaweera led 53-3 Brigade, which included First Gajaba, Fifth
Gemunu, Fifth Wijayaba. They were backed by the Fourth Armoured Corp,
Mechanised Infantry Battalion and the Artillery Regiment.
By 5:30 a.m. the following day, both Divisions broke through Tiger
defence line along an eight kilometer stretch from Kilaly amidst heavy
fighting. By 10:00 a.m. the 55 Division completed the capture of their
sector of this defence line, which was about 3.6 kilometres wide. The 53
Division which had a 4.4 kilometre width section of the defence line to
overcome, completed the task by 6:00 p.m. Both Divisions accomplished
their initial tasks with minimum of casualties, despite Tigers training
heavy artillery and mortar fire at the advancing troops. The Tiger
strength in this region, which had been already depleted took a severe
beating during January 06 fighting.
According to intercepted Tiger communications 35 of their cadres were
killed in the areas that resisted the advance of 55 Division, while in
the 53 Division sector about 40 LTTE cadres had been killed and more
than 50 injured. They had deployed 15 vehicles to evacuate their
On January 07 troops advanced a further two kilometers destroying all
obstacles on the way. And they completed the day by reaching within 1.5
kilometres of Pallai Town. By then the LTTE resistance was breaking down
and their cadres were fleeing.
Along the way the 53 Division captured the G-7 Tiger camp at Muhamalai,
Echo Nine base at Kilaly, and two satellite camps Delta Two and Echo
Three. The fighting in G-7 Camp even ignited its armoury, causing
ammunition boxes to explode over a long period.
Their well fortified bunkers were linked through trench lines, but the
troops of the Divisions over came all of them. On Thursday (8), as
troops kept up their advance after the capture of Pallai, the Army lost
a senior officer, who had played a pivotal role in this Eelam War IV.
Lt. Col. Nalinda Kumarasinghe Commander of Fifth Gemunu Regiment was
killed with two others when they were blown up by an enemy booby trap.
He was also the highest ranking military officer to be killed in action
during the Eelam War IV.
As these two divisions were advancing towards Elephant Pass, the 58
Division, which earlier on Monday captured EPS, dispatched small teams
of commandos from the Second Commando Regiment northward toward
Iyakachchy. They linked up with First Wijayaba Regiment troops who were
advancing from Iyakachchy to Elephant Pass, thus completing the capture
of the entire A-9 since the departure of the IPKF in 1993.
year extension for Major General Chandrasiri
By Tissa Ravindra Perera
Former Commander of Jaffna Major General G.A. Chandrasiri has been
granted one year extension
of service last week. He is considered an efficient officer who acted as
the Commander of Jaffna for three years ensuring the maximum security in
the Peninsula. He was due to retire following his 55th birthday on
Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka has obtained this extension for
Gen. Chandrasiri having considered his dedicated service in the north.
According to Army headquarters sources, Major Gen. Chandrasiri is now
expected to be appointed as the Chief of Staff of the Sri Lankan Army.
Sources also said that that Brigadier Nirmal Dharmaratna, the Special
Forces Brigade Commander is expected to be appointed as the Defense
Attaché of the Sri Lankan High Commission of Britain. Brigadier Prasad
Samarasinghe who is currently holding that post is to return to the
country following the completion of his term. Colonel Athula Koddippili
is tipped to be the next Brigade Commander of the Special Forces.
Meanwhile, the Army Commander has decided to raise another fighting
division as Task Force IV headed by 22-4 Brigade Commander of Weli Oya,
Colonel Channa Kodituwakku. Colonel D.T. Gamage will succeed as the 22-4
Brigade Commander. The Task Force VI will be the 10th Division to join
the Wanni operations.
The Army Commander has already deployed eight divisions to fight the
fourth Eelam War.
The Task Force V which was raised as the ninth fighting division was
deployed a week ago and is entrusted holding operations of crucial areas
already cleared and the security of A-9 Highway.
According to the Army Commander, it has been decided to increase the
number of Army personnel to 200,000. He is of the view that at least
300,000 personnel will be needed to ensure security in the areas
recaptured by the Wanni operations.
Colonel Jayantha Seneviratne of the Singha Regiment has been appointed
to the Task Force IV’s 66-1 Brigade. He was the 62-2 Brigade Commander
and he has been replaced by Colonel P.J. Gamage. Former 23-4 Brigade
Commander Colonel Upali Rajapaksa has been appointed the Commander as
the 66-2 Brigade also coming under Task Force VI. Col Rajapaksa is from
the Armoured Corp and until now he was the 23-4 Brigade Commander.