Army told no heavy weapons, not Prabha
By Friday (1), 58 and 53 Divisions were advancing on the Mullaitivu-Paranthan (A35) road towards the final Tiger hideout at Vellamullavaikal.
As the noose tightened on the remaining Tiger diehards, the Western vested interests too were making determined efforts to send an international team of observers into the country. China has rejected the proposal for this purpose for the fifth occasion at the UN Security Council.
West in their hypocritical element
The Tiger friendly international forces were bent on exerting maximum pressure, even through inspired media leaks against the country and the security forces (SF), to save the LTTE core from annihilation, in the guise of intervening on humanitarian grounds to save trapped civilians. This is despite more than 100,000 IDPs being rescued by the SF since April 20, from Tiger clutches, after being held as human shields.
The Army Commander has been given a free hand by the Government, to carry on with the task of completing the job of completely routing the LTTE, despite the objections of these international forces. Although the military were ordered by the Government to stop the use of heavy arms, no international group has compelled the Tigers to stop using its heavy arms and mortars from this zone, originally set aside by the Government as a safe refuge for fleeing IDPs.
The Tigers had been laying booby traps at Vellamullawaikal, using mortar and heavy artillery shells. They have used the huge explosions caused by such booby traps to accuse SF of using heavy arms on innocent civilians.
The final fortress of the Eelam War, may have about another 20,000 civilians, who are either detained against their will as a human shield and as labourers or, are members of their Maveer families.
Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka points out that, the Tigers are yet using heavy arms and mortars against the SF, from the tiny area they are in.
If not for the trapped civilians, the Govt. forces are capable of using their heavy arms, including multi barrel rocket launchers, to flatten the area completely, within a couple of hours.
Earth Bund by Earth Bund
Taking down the bund at Vallayarmadam was the next task of 58 Division under Brig. Shavendra Silva.
Troops of 58 Division were entrusted with the forward operations, while keeping the Special Forces and Commandos as the second security ring.
The first phase of the operation came under, Lt. Col. Samantha Wickramasena Commanding 10 Infantry Battalion (SLLI). Lt. Col. Nandana Chandrasekera Commanding 12 Gemunu Watch (GW), and Maj. Janaka Pallekumbura Commanding 14 Gajaba Regiment (GR)). The Fifth Armoured Corp under Lt. Col. Nihal Samarakoon, provided support from the coast. By April 25, troops of 12 GW advanced from the lagoon side, 10 SLLI advanced from the beach.
All operations had to be launched under cover of darkness, as the terrain was virtually open country with no cover. A tree or a bush was a rarity. Tents and improvised shelters left by fleeing IDPs were not the best cover for advancement. The scorching sun over this barren land too, was unbearable for any daytime movements.
The six-foot high Tiger bund was overrun. Tiger heavy arms fire and sniper attacks on this narrow stretch, ensured casualties among the soldiers.
The 14 GR advanced along the lagoon and 20 GR by the shore. Heavy fighting erupted there, as the Tigers used their boats stationed along the coast, which were fitted with peddle operated anti aircraft guns.
The battle tanks on shore joined in and destroyed one Tiger boat while the Navy destroyed another. The previous day (26) Tigers used boats from the Vellamullavaikal area to attack and three of their boats were blown up by the Navy.
Alpha Company under Lt. Chandrasekera of 20 GR, that advanced towards Vallayarmadam, found the armoured vehicle used by Tiger leaders. It was built in the shape of a WMZ vehicle used by senior army officers for secure travel. It was built with armour that could withstand an RPG attack, and was a massive 10-wheeler.
One by one
On the day this vehicle was discovered, three Tiger cadres firing an anti aircraft gun, were taken out by Army snipers. Over 30 Tigers were killed by the snipers within two days.
The 10 SLLI was involved in the rescue operation of three priests and 14 sisters at Vallayarmadam Pentecostal Church. When the troops were advancing, about 5,000 civilians had been beaten and chased towards Vellamullavaikal. On arrival, they found only those church members and 17 old and feeble civilians.
On questioning those found in the church, intelligence discovered that one of the ‘sisters’ was, in fact, an LTTE cadre, who had served the LTTE’s ‘Malathi’ armour regiment for six years.
Destroying sand fortresses
The 10 SLLI and 12 GW were entrusted with taking the final bund at Valaayarmadam. The operation started around midnight of April 28 and continued up to 4.00 a.m (29). Tigers were ready with their suicide cadres. They even sent in a lorry laden with explosives toward the well secured security ring and blasted it. A cab packed with explosives was also blasted in similar fashion.
CO Air Mobile Brigade, Lt. Col. Thilak Hangilipola, and CO 5 GW, of the same Brigade, Lt. Col. Rohan Palayangoda, were involved in this operation.
This bund, built from Ampalavanpokkanai to Vallayarmadam, stretches for about two kilometers in the NFZ. The 1 GR troops were deployed to give flank cover to 5 GW.
On the morning of April 30, Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka met with the ground commanders of the Wanni operation.
The forward operations of 59 Division, which had been stationed south of Vellamullavaikal, passing the lagoon-mouth, going from Mulaitivu, have been handed over to GOC 55 Division, Brig. Prasanna de Silva, in recognition of his leadership of the 55 Division, all the way from Muhamalai to Nagarkovil to Chalai to Chundikulam- 70 km, with a minimum casualties among his men, while hammering and capturing Sea Tiger camps.
During this period, Brig. Chagee Gallage has been appointed to oversee 55 Division. He is presently serving as the Army’s Training Director.
Inroads into the NFZ
On the instructions of the Army Chief, troops of 53 Division, broke through the main Tiger obstacle, to get into the NFZ via A35, advancing to Vellamullaivaikal.
Therefore, the plan was to get this area not by charging, but strategically.
While 53 Division were advancing along the lagoon, parallel to them, 58 Division advanced along the coast. From north of the Tiger occupied thin strip of five sq. km., two other battle groups too, began advancing. Task Force VIII under Col. G.V. Ravipriya, 68-2 Brigade under Col. Lalantha Gamage, moving along A35 and giving rear support, and 68-2 Brigade, under Lt. Col. Subashana Welikala, advancing from Nandikadal lagoon side covering the entire area, where the remaining Tiger leaders are holed up.
Meanwhile, after troops contained Tigers to the 5 sq. km area, the Navy, to fence them into a 5 sq. km coastal stretch from Mulaitivu to Vellaimullaivaikal, has deployed four security rings with attack vessels.
The 57-2 Brigade under Col. Senarath Bandara, coming under 57 Division Commanded by Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias, discovered a large stock of Tiger Arms in the West of Pudukudyirippu in the Pottiaru area.
The 18 VR under Maj. Laksiri Perera, found 19 suicide kits, eight 25 kgs Claymore bombs, three 4 kgs Claymore bombs, 2 bombs sealed with fiberglass each 25 kgs, 10 suicide kits minus explosives, 210 switches used in suicide kits and, for the first time, a suicide motorcycle helmet laden with 4 kgs of explosives. Along with these were maps of Hambantota, Matara, Dehiwela, and Mt. Lavinia, these may have been intended for attacks in the South.
The 9 Armoured Corp under this Brigade and led by Maj. Ravi Pathiravithana, discovered 21 boat engines, 1,247 Tiger bombs, 22 Claymore bombs, 55 booby traps and other material.