Military Matters

 LTTE plays its final trump

The advancing forces observed the area through an unmanned aircraft (UAV) and confirmed that the defence line was manned by about 60 terrorists. Alfa Company of the 7th VR, under Captain Arangallage and the Charlie Company of Captain Prasanna using changed tactics and broke into the LTTE defence line

By Tissa Ravindra Perera
The LTTE, facing the ignominy of total battlefield defeat, played their last trump this week, but failed to deliver a signal blow to halt the security forces’ final push. They launched their desperate bid, as the security forces (SF) were approaching Pudukudyiriuppu and Chalai, the last bastions held by them. The LTTE was by then trapped in an area less than 150 sq. km.

When their previous week’s plan to create havoc by blasting Iranamadu and Kolamadu tanks failed, they decided to use vehicles loaded with explosives and suicide cadres to cause havoc on the advancing forces this week. Their abortive plan to re-occupy Mullaitivu and raise the Eelam flag there on February 4, ended with the fall of the main Sea Tiger bastion at Chalai. The LTTE’s plan was to push the forces back to Oddusudan, re-capture A-34 Mankulam-Mullaitivu highway and to regain Mullaithivu and cut off the forces there.

The 48-hour cease-fire period for the civilians to enter Government controlled areas, ended on January 31. The terrorists who made capital out of the unofficial truce, planned to attack the SF from three directions.
Meanwhile, the SF were approaching the Paranthan-Mullaitivu, A-35 highway.

On the afternoon of January 31, the Army Chief instructed the Commanding Officer of 59 Brigade to bridge a gap in the defence line. Sea Tiger leader Soosai used this gap, essentially a marsh, to attack the SF from boats in the west of Nandikadal lagoon on February 1. The attack from three directions commenced with RPG fire on a bus transporting soldiers of the 59 Brigade from Mullayawali.

The terrorists who obstructed the roads from Mullayawali to the A-34 Highway, launched the attack and at the same time infiltrated the area from the direction of the Watalappalai Kovil.
While this fight was raging, 55 Brigade under Brig. Prasanna de Silva was advancing towards the last and the biggest Sea Tiger base at Chalai.

Soosai was heard over intercepted LTTE messages telling other Tiger leaders: “I am not worried about this fight. What matters is Chalai. If Chalai falls, we will all perish”

Meanwhile, a group of terrorists under “Rekkie Jeyam”, who had infiltrated the defence line, launched an attack. The 7th Gemunu Regiment (7GR), however, fought valiantly and foiled the preliminary stage of the LTTE’s plan. Forces of the 15th Infantry and 9th Sinha Regiments too, faced a massive onslaught, as the LTTE launched suicide attacks using explosive laden lorries.

Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka immediately sent Brigade Commander 57 Brigade, Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias and Brigade Commander 53 Brigade, Brig. Kamal Gunaratne to assist Brigade Commander 59 Brigade, Brig. Nanadana Udawatta.

The Borne Brigade, two Special Force units, and 13 eight-man Commando teams too, were deployed to beat back the Tigers.
Although the terrorists were commanded by their frontline commanders Bhanu, Swarnam, Soosai, and Jeyam, they suffered extensive damage under artillery and multi-barrel fire of the SF. The 7GR, of 593 Brigade, after its victory at the Mullaitivu battle, was instructed on January 31 to advance from Pudukudyirippu West. They faced this attack on the very day they entered the Pudukudiruppu battlefront.

The LTTE onslaught, however, resulted in the forward defence line (FDL) of the SF being pulling back three kilometers and the establishment of a strong second defence line. The 1st Vijayaba, 6th Gajaba, the Special Forces, and the Commando Brigade were deployed in the defence line.

From then onwards, the Special Forces and the Commando Regiment launched a major counterattack on the terrorists, with round-the-clock air support from helicopter gunships and attack aircraft.

On Tuesday February 3, the terrorists made another attempt to break through the FDL, by blasting four explosive laden vehicles
The Operational Headquarters, the armoury, and the helipad came under continuous LTTE artillery fire, in an attempt to cripple the operation. Even the field operational centre of the three Divisional commanders were targeted.

Taking no chances, the Army Chief then personally took charge of the situation and commanded the SF’s fightback and the deployment of reinforcements. He remained at Army Headquarters till 2.30 am on Independence Day.
Under his direct command, the SF were able to neutralise the terrorist attacks and build up a strong FDL, consolidating their positions. Ultimately, the LTTE’s dream on Independence Day was shattered.

55 Brigade under Brig. Prsanna de Silva was, by this time, instructed by the Army Chief to take Chalai.
The aerial attacks of the Sri Lanka Air force, using Kfir ground attack aircraft on LTTE targets at Nallathannithoduwai, on Saturday (31), had set the stage for the capture of Chalai.

After the 8th Vijayaba Regiment of 552 Brigade led by Col. Kapila Udalupola, captured the last remaining stretch of the Jaffna district border, 553 Brigade under Col. Mahinda Weerasuriya, was called upon to launch the operations from there to Chalai.

The 4th Gemunu Regiment of 553 Brigade, under Maj. Upul Senerath, on January 31, advanced towards the enemy’s FDL through landmines and broke through the 800 metre-long FDL the following morning. From there, troops of the 7th Vijayaba Regiment of the 583 Brigade under Lt Col Deepal Pussella, and the 6th Infantry Regiment under Maj. Manada Yahampath, broke through another defence line about 700 meters ahead. On Monday February 2, they noticed a fourth LTTE defence line camouflaged with thick foliage about 2.7 kilometres from the third defence line. The following morning they launched a major attack on the defence line and broke through.

The advancing forces observed the area through an unmanned aircraft (UAV) and confirmed that the defence line was manned by about 60 terrorists. Alfa Company of the 7th VR, under Captain Arangallage and the Charlie Company of Captain Prasanna using changed tactics and broke into the LTTE defence line.

The 7th Infantry Regiment provided support fire from the direction of the sea. The LTTE used four Sea Tiger craft during the confrontation. However, the artillery and multi-barrel fire of the SFs neutraliszed the terrorists. It was confirmed that 24 terrorists were killed and 35 others injured during the operation in Paperapetti area, to break through the LTTE’s third defence line. During this confrontation, intelligence was received that the LTTE had sent reinforcements, but 30 of them disappeared, unable to face the intense fire from the forces.

The operation was launched by 55 Brigade under Brig. Prassana Silva, Deputy Brigade Commander Brig. Nissanka Ranawana and Col Mahinda Weerasuriya. Delta and Echo Companies of the 1st Commando Regiment, under Maj. Krishantha Gunaratne, assisted the infantry regiments.

The advancing troops of 55 Division had broken through four LTTE defence lines in an area of five kilometres from January 1. Military Intelligence confirmed that 23 terrorists were killed during the confrontations to overrun the fourth defence line. Three bodies of terrorists and several weapons were recovered by the SF.

The 7th VR and the 6th IR and the small groups of the 1st Commando Regiment that advanced from the fourth defence line of the Tigers, on Independence Day, fought the enemy from 12.30 pm to 2.00 pm. The third in command of the Sea Tiger Force and four LTTE leaders were among those killed on that day.

The SF that gunned down LTTE Lt. Col Sinnkannan (Organisation No. 0205) and seven LTTE cadres, recovered one RPG, two machine guns, and two T.56 rifles.

During a confrontation at about 2pm on February 4, the third in Command of the Sea Tiger Force Vinayagam (Organisation No.0205) was killed. Vinayagam who had been the personal bodyguard of former LTTE deputy leader Mahatthaya lost one eye in a confrontation in Jaffna in 1995. He visited Norway, under the pretext of peace talks in 2004, to raise funds for the organisation. He was also, at one time, Sea Tiger intelligence leader and the coordinator for the LTTE arms deals. Identified by the code name ‘Mike Four, Vinayagam functioned as the third in command of the LTTE Sea Tiger Force since 2007. Born at Maradankarni, in Vadamarachchi, Jaffna, he had been in the LTTE organisation for 25 years.

Another Sea Tiger leader called Pahalavan (0053) was also killed during the confrontation. He had been rewarded by Prabhakaran for being a Sea Tiger leader who led most of the attacks during his 15-year service. In this clash, Cader alias ‘Kilo Romeo’ (0856) who had been in charge of operations up to Chalai, was also killed.

LTTE Sea Tiger Leader Soosai launched another attack under Ramesh, one of the LTTE military wing leaders in Batticaloa on February 4. The attack that started at 4pm was beaten back by the Infantry Regiments.

A 14-year-old female suicide cardre who came forward under the pretext of surrendering to the SF, blasted herself. A commando was injured in the incident, as he challenged her to halt her advance. It was revealed that six suicide cadres had been deployed to carry out similar attacks. It is not clear whether the child soldier triggered the explosion or the terrorists exploded the explosives strapped to her body by remote control.

Meanwhile, 621 and 622 Brigades of Task Force II under Brig. Rohana Bandara, were approaching Pudukudyirippu. The advancing forces of 621 Brigade under Lt. Col. Atula Ariyaratne and 622 Brigade under Lt Col Kirithi Gunasoma, were overrunning a large number of LTTE strongholds, sometimes after hand-to-hand fighting. Intercepted LTTE messages confirmed that about 70 LTTE cadres were killed during the confrontations for the week. The SF recovered 40 bodies.

Commanding Officer of the Artillery Regiment in Jaffna, Lt .Col. Kirthi Gunasoma was appointed to 622 Brigade and his predecessor Lt Col. Jayashantha Gamage to the Gajaba Regimental headquarters.

Lt Col Senerath Bandara returned to 57 Division after undergoing an overseas training programme, as Brigade Commander of 572 Brigade, in place of Lt. Col. Dhammika Jayasundara who was appointed to the Mechanical Infantry Regiment as Brigade Commander.

572 Brigade under Lt Col Senerath Bandara and 574 Brigade under Senka Wijesuriya were proceeding from the direction of Vishvamadu. They faced stiff resistance from the LTTE, but the 3rd Gajaba, 12th Sinha, 7th Infantry, 8th Infantry and 16 Singha Regiments of the two Brigades, were able to kill more than 80 terrorists during the confrontations.

It was confirmed that 30 bodies of the LTTE cadres that could not be removed, were burnt by the terrorists.
The LTTE hospital housed in Vishvamadu Technical College, came under the SF this week. Terrorists had taken away the drugs and medical equipment of the Kilinochchi hospital for use in their hospital. Vishvamadu LTTE hospital was camouflaged with cadjan. The security forces recovered two ambulances and several machinery and equipment including a generator belonging to the Kilinochchi hospital.

Meanwhile, the 16 Sinha Regiment of 574 Brigade, came across a torture house run by terrorists with 60 cells located on a five-acre plot south of Vishvamadu. The LTTE had used the prisoners to cultivate the land. The Sinha Regiment recovered a haul of arms including six Thermobaric weapons, which is a banned weapon, 16 disposable RPGs and 16 RCL bullets and a host of equipment recovered from naval craft destroyed by Tigers.

The 8th IR that captured a terrorist camp, recovered the parts of six 120mm mortar guns. Four oil bowsers and a container of lubricant oil.