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Rise and Fall of Tigers
Beginning of the end

From Mavillaru to Pudumattalan

The ‘humanitarian operation’ launched in 2006, when the LTTE deprived more than 15,000 villagers of water, by closing the Mavil Aru sluice gates, first saw, not only the defeat of the LTTE there at the hands of the security forces, but also the restoration of water supplies to the affected farmers. By this time, the LTTE, despite the Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) negotiated by the Norwegians, were violating it at will, assassinating intelligence operatives and also taking a heavy toll of the forces through claymore mine attacks. LTTE activities in the entire Eastern Province and limited the outfit only to a small strip of less than 8 kilometres in the Northern region of the country.

Momentary look back

‘The Sri Lankan Civil War’ is the name given to the ongoing conflict of Sri Lanka that has been fought on-and-off since July 23, 1983 between the government and predominantly the LTTE.

Towns recaptured
by the Sri Lankan
Armed Forces
• Silawaturai 2/9/2007
• Adampan: 9/5/2008
• Uyilankulam: 29/6/2008
• Vidattaltivu: 16/7/2008
• Iluppaikkadavai: 20/7/2008
• Vellankulam: 2/8/2008
• Mulankavil: 12/8/2008
• Nachchikuda: 21/8/2008
• Kiranchi: 10/11/2008
• Palavi: 11/11/2008
• Valaippadu: 13/11/2008
• Devil's Point: 13/11/2008
• Pooneryn 15/11/2008
• Mankulam 17/11/2008
• Iranamdu 01/01/2009
• Paranthan 01/01/2009
• Kilinochchi 02/01/2009 de
facto capital of the
Utopian state of "Eelam"
• Elephant Pass 09/01/2009
• Entire Jaffna peninsula
• Entire Pudukudiiruppu
area 07/04/2009
Being one of the world’s deadliest ongoing armed conflicts it records over 70,000 people being officially listed as killed in the war since 1983 and has caused significant adversity to the population, environment and the economy of the country.

However, the tactics used by the LTTE in winning its ‘so-called’ Eelam have resulted in the organisation being banned as a terrorist organisation in 33 countries, including the United States, Japan, Brazil, Australia, the nations of the European Union, Canada and its neighbour India.

After two decades of fighting and three failed attempts at peace talks, including the unsuccessful deployment of the Indian Army as a peacekeeping force (IPKF) from 1987 to 1990, a lasting negotiated settlement to the conflict appeared possible when a cease-fire was declared in December 2001, and a ceasefire agreement signed with international mediation in 2002.

However limited hostilities renewed in late 2005 and the conflict began to escalate until the government launched a number of major military offensives against the LTTE in July 2006, and drove the LTTE out of the entire Eastern province of the island. The LTTE then declared they would “resume their freedom struggle to achieve statehood”.
The government then shifted its offensive to the north of the country, and formally announced its withdrawal from the ceasefire agreement on January 2, 2008, alleging that the LTTE violated the agreement over 10,000 times.

Since then, aided by the destruction of a number of large arms smuggling vessels that belonged to the LTTE, and an international crackdown on the funding for the Tamil Tigers, the government has taken control of 99.8% of the territory previously controlled by the Tamil Tigers, including their de-facto capital Kilinochchi, main military base Mullaitivu and the entire A9 highway.

As a result of the latest fighting, experts predict the long running conflict could soon come to an end, with the government taking over the final bit of territory controlled by the Tamil Tigers by launching world’s biggest operation to rescue hostages kept by the LTTE as a human shield.

On January 2, 2008, the government unanimously decided to formally withdraw from the ceasefire with the LTTE, which had existed only on paper over the past two years. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake had proposed that the cabinet annul the truce after yet another bomb blast went off on January 2 in the capital, Colombo, killing five and injuring over 28.

Beginning of the Eelam war 4

The fourth phase of armed conflict between the government forces and the LTTE began on the July 26, 2006 when Sri Lanka Air Force fighter jets bombed several LTTE camps around Mavil Aru (Mavil Oya) anicut following the LTTE cut-off the water supply to surrounding paddy fields in the area by closing the sluice gates on July 21, 2006 depriving water to nearly 15,000 villagers.

After initial negotiations and efforts by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) to open the gates failed, the Air Force attacked LTTE positions on July 26, and ground troops began an operation to open the gate.

The sluice gates were eventually reopened on August 8, with conflicting reports as to who actually opened them. Initially, the SLMM claimed that they managed to persuade the LTTE to lift the waterway blockade conditionally. However the government said that “utilities could not be used as bargaining tools” by the rebels and government forces launched fresh attacks on LTTE positions around the reservoir. These attacks prompted condemnation from SLMM Chief of Staff, who stated “The government has the information that the LTTE has made this offer. It is quite obvious they are not interested in water. They are interested in something else”. 

The LTTE then claimed they opened the sluice gates “on humanitarian grounds” although this was disputed by military correspondents, who stated the water began flowing immediately after the security forces carried out a precise bombing of the Mavil Aru anicut. Eventually, following heavy fighting with the rebels, government troops gained full control of the Mavil Aru reservoir on August 15.

Continued fighting led to several territorial gains for the Sri Lankan Army, including the capture of Sampur, Vakarai and other parts of the East. The war took on an added breadth when the LTTE Air Tigers bombed Katunayake airbase on March 26, 2007, the first rebel air attack without external assistance in history.

Fierce fighting broke out

As fierce fighting was ongoing in the vicinity of (Mavil Oya) Mavil Aru, the violence spread to Trincomalee (Gokanna), where the LTTE launched an attack on a crucial Sri Lanka Navy base and to the strategic government controlled coastal town of Muttur (Mooduthara) in early August, resulting in the deaths of at least 30 civilians and displacing 25,000 residents of the area.

The clashes erupted on August 2, 2006 when the LTTE launched a heavy artillery attack on Muttur and then moved in, gaining control of some parts of the town. The military retaliated, and re-established full control over the town by August 5, killing over 150 LTTE cadres in heavy fighting.

Meanwhile, in the north of the country, some of the bloodiest fighting since 2001 took place after the LTTE launched massive attacks on Sri Lanka Army defence lines in the Jaffna peninsula on August 11.

The LTTE used a force of 400 to 500 fighters in the attacks which consisted of land and amphibious assaults, and also fired a barrage of artillery at government positions, including the key military airbase at Palaly (Paluyaala). Initially, the Tigers broke through army defense lines around Muhamalai (Mahakanda), and advanced further north but were halted after 10 hours of fierce fighting.
Isolated battles continued over the next few days, but the LTTE was forced to give up its offensive due to heavy casualties. The LTTE is estimated to have lost over 250cadres in the operation, while 90 Sri Lankan soldiers and sailors were also killed.

Sencholai air strike

Sri Lanka Air Force carried out an air strike against a facility in the rebel held Mullaitivu area and the LTTE claimed 61 girls who were allegedly attending a first-aid course at an orphanage were killed. However, the SLMM stated they were able to count just 19 bodies and the government stated that it was an LTTE training facility.

On the same day, a convoy carrying the Pakistani High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Bashir Wali Mohamed was attacked by a claymore antipersonnel mine in Colombo. The High Commissioner escaped unhurt, but seven people were killed and a further seventeen injured in the blast. The government blamed the LTTE of carrying out the attack in order to intimidate Pakistan, which is one of the main suppliers of military equipment to the Sri Lankan government.

Fall of Sampur

According to defence sources the strategically crucial Sri Lanka Navy base in Trinconmalee was under grave threat from LTTE gun positions located in and around Sampur, which lies across the Koddiyar Bay from Trincomalee since the resumption of violence. Artillery fired from LTTE bases in the area could potentially cripple the naval base, bringing it to a complete standstill and cutting the only military supply chain to Jaffna. All movements of naval vessels were also under the constant surveillance of the LTTE.These fears were backed up by a United States military advisory team which visited the island in 2005.

Following the clashes in Mavil Aru and Muttur, the LTTE had intensified attacks targeting the naval base in Trincomalee and in a speech on August 21, 2006 President Mahinda Rajapaksa made clear the government intentions were to neutralise the LTTE threat from Sampur. On August 28, the military launched an assault to retake the LTTE camps in Sampur and the adjoining Kaddaparichchan (Gata-bara-hena) and Thoppur (Thupapura) areas. This led the LTTE to declare that if the offensive continued, the ceasefire would be officially over.

After steady progress, Sri Lankan security forces led by Brigade Commander Sarath Wijesinghe re-captured Sampur (Somapura) from the LTTE on September 4, and began to establish military bases there. It marked the first significant territorial change of hands since the signing of the ceasefire agreement in 2002.

Humanitarian operation begins to liberate the East

In December 2006, Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka and other senior government officials expressed their plans to initially drive the LTTE out of the Eastern Province and then use the full strength of the military to defeat the LTTE in the North of the country.

Subsequently, the Army began an offensive against the LTTE on December 8, 2006, in the Batticoloa district with the objective of taking Vakare, the principle stronghold of the LTTE in the East. Over the next few weeks, an estimated 20,000 civilians fled from Vakare to Government controlled areas fearing the imminent assault. The Army launched a new offensive in mid January, and Vaakare fell to the advancing troops on January 19, 2007.

Troops mostly operating in small groups of Special Forces and Commando units began a new operation in February to clear the remaining LTTE cadres from the Eastern Province. As part of the operation, troops captured the a key LTTE base in Kokkadicholai (Gokatugolla) on March 28, 2007 and the strategic A5 highway on April 12, 2007 bringing the entire highway under government control for the first time in 15 years.

According to military, this meant the LTTE’s presence in the East was reduced to a 140 square kilometre pocket of jungle land in the Thoppigala area north-west of Batticaloa.

The government said it liberated the entire Eastern province by July 11, 2007 with the capture of Thoppigala which some prominent political figures in the south called as a mere jungle with few trees and thereafter call for the nomination to the Eastern provincial council aiming to establish democracy there.

Sporadic fighting in the North had been going on for months, but the intensity of the clashes increased after September 2007. During clashes in the Forward Defence Lines, separating their forces, both sides exchanged heavy artillery fire. The LTTE defences at Uyilankulama and Thampanai were lost to advancing troops of the Sri Lanka Army by December 22, 2007. On December 29, 2007, the Army overran the LTTE stronghold at Parappakandal, in Mannar District.

While ground forces engaged in fierce battles the Navy and the Air Force assisted the ongoing battles by securing the skies and the seas of the country.

Major air strikes of SLAF

SLAF bombed on a facility in the rebel held Mullaitivu area, (Sencholai airstrike) on August 14, 2006.

On May 7, 2007 morning around 07:25 AM the supersonic fighter jets of Sri Lankan Air-force bombed strategic LTTE base and a large fuel storage at Ramanathpuram, East of Iranamadu. The fire lasted more than six hours in fuel storage.

On November 2007, Thamilselvan, along with 5 other high ranking Tamil rebels were killed by a precision air strike carried out on an undisclosed location near LTTE stronghold town of Kilinochchi

LTTE air strikes

LTTE air strikes occurred for the first time in history on March 26, 2007 on the air-force base at Katunayake.

LTTE aircraft attacked Palali military complex by dropping bombs on April 23, 2007.
The LTTE attacked Katunayake air base on April 26, 2007 for the second time, one month after their first attack on the same location.

On April 26, Sri Lanka’s air defences in Colombo fired into the sky following reports that unidentified aircraft had been spotted on radar. No attack was reported.

However, a few days later on the early morning of April 29, while the entire nation was watching the Cricket World Cup Final a Tiger aircraft bombed two fuel storage facilities outside Colombo. Chaos followed and electricity in the capital was shut off for nearly an hour. There were no casualties and minimal damage.
On October 22, 2007, Air Tigers launched a pre-dawn combined arms assault on a SLAF airbase at Anuradhapura.

The most recent and the last LTTE air raid was on February 20 this year which came on a suicidal mission to Colombo and the two aircrafts were shot down by the security forces. They were on their ninth mission targeting the defence sectors and the economic nerve centres in the city.

The wreckage of one destroyed aircraft and the body of its pilot were found near the Katunayake Air Force base while the other crashed onto the Inland Revenue Department building. The pilot wore a cyanide capsule round his neck and hand grenades strapped to his chest.

Call for surrender and future of Prabha
The government called upon all LTTE cadres including its leadership to surrender to government forces laying down their arms while continuously carrying out operations to track down LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran.

While, some claimed that Prabhakaran has already fled the country the Army and the Navy ruled out any possibility of him fleeing the country given the tight security situation. According to military experts Prabhakaran has no other option but to surrender to the government or to be a victim of his own cadres. He has another option as well; and that is to commit suicide.

However, the recently surrendered LTTE’s former media spokesman Daya Master has claimed that Prabhakaran along with his Charles Anthony and Intelligence chief Pottu Amman may have fled the country using a submarine.