Monday, December 10, 2007

Army rehearse for Wanni Push

Tigers revert to full scale war

Sri Lanka is experiencing a free fall to its violent days of the pre- ceasefire period. Recent attacks on civilians signal that the LTTE has reverted to a no -holds barred full scale confrontation with the government.
It was only last week, a twin blast brought war to the country’s Capital. And barely a week after the deadly blast in Nugegoda, a passenger bus plying on the Anuradhapura- Janakapura route was blown up, killing 16 and injuring 22 civilians.

The repeated attacks on civilians signals that the LTTE has reverted to its old practice of bombing civilian targets, thereby going an extra mile to intensify the conflict.

The LTTE, largely kept away from high profile civilian targets during the greater part of the ceasefire - there are, however, exceptions, for instance the bus bomb in Kebithigollewa.

The recent developments come in the wake of the LTTE going underground, closing down its offices and cutting off communications with the most of the rest of the world.
LTTE’s peace secretariat and its political offices have been closed and the repeated attempts to contact LTTE media spokesman, Irasaiyah Illanthairan were in vain.


The LTTE’s decision to go underground had been effected days after the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran delivered his Maveerar day speech, in which he expressed his disappointment at the indifference of the international community to the plight of the Tamil people.

Earlier the LTTE refrained from attacking civilian targets was largely attributed to its efforts to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the international community.
However, Prabhakaran lamented in his speech that the international community had not reciprocated to the LTTE.

The low intensity violence directed against the security forces had always been a part of the trademark practice of the LTTE, which envisaged to intimidate the government into submission through the use of violence. This tactic was utilized throughout the ceasefire to a lesser extent. However, the recent attacks on civilians brings the hitherto undeclared war to a higher intensity.

They also signal that the LTTE had reverted to full scale violence, which had been the form of its struggle till it feebly tried to negotiate a settlement.

Civilian targets

Despite intelligence warnings to the effect that the LTTE would continue to attack civilian targets, it has been a rather tedious task to defend the citizenry from terror attacks. For instance, 300 home uards were recruited and trained in Kebithigollewa following the deadly bus bomb last year which killed over sixty passengers and injured scores of others.

However, it is now revealed that last Wednesday’s bomb had been planted about 50 meters from a bunker manned by homeguards. This bunker line has been constructed after the Kebithigollewa blast. The bomb had exploded thirty minutes after a road clearing patrol passed through the site of the blast. True to remarks by a former IRA guerrilla, terrorists could succeed in a moment of luck, whereas security forces had to defend itself 24/7. This is the dilemma of the security forces, when it was forced to fight an unconventional war.

However, the knee- jerk reaction of the government to the twin blasts in Colombo could only damage its position . The mass arrests of Tamils proved to be a futile exercise and a disaster in ethnic relations.
Understandably, the recent incursions of the LTTE in the South are of grave concern to the government.

The LTTE strategy to attack civilian and military positions in the South, could be argued as a tit- for-tat to the on-going military operations to push towards the Wanni.

Two week ago, the security forces arrested a suspected Tiger cadre in Yala, who confessed that he was a member of a thirty member LTTE squad. According to a confession made by the suspect, he has been recruited by the LTTE during Karuna’s hey days as the Eastern Tiger commander. He fled the LTTE after Karuna’s split, but had been re-enlisted by the Tigers and assigned to kitchen work in a Tiger camp in Kanchikudichchiaru.

The LTTE cadre has said that the thirty member LTTE squad had been dispatched from Kanchikudichchirau, where there are approximately 120 LTTE cadres based.
The arrested Tiger cadre has said that he was assigned to cook for the Tiger squad and that he didn’t engage in offensive operations in Yala. He has further disclosed that two Tiger cadres were injured in the attack on the Thalgasmankada army detachment. The wounded had been evacuated to Kanchikudichiaru by two cadres in the medical team. The Tigers in Yala are said to be in contact with their Kanchikudichiaru camp through cell phones, according to the arrested Tiger suspect. He has said supplies were delivered to a location on the B25 Buttala- Sella Kataragama road by a white van.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, an eight- man team of army Commandos came across a group of Tiger cadres in Debaraduwa, about 30 km inside Yala.

One Commando was injured in the subsequent shoot- out and the Army said four LTTE cadres were injured. Later, the Army found a body of a female Tiger cadre along with a Light Machine Gun.

Meanwhile, two skeletons believed to be those of cattle farmers who were abducted by the LTTE were also found last week. Given the terrain of Yala, where the Tigers could find cover in a sea of trees, it is an extremely difficult task to track them, despite all evidence pointing to the LTTE incursion into Yala.

There are also reports, confirmed by intelligence sources, that the Tigers in small numbers have infiltrated the Wilpattu jungles. There again, the dilemma of the security forces is well understood.

LTTE infiltrations

Recent LTTE infiltrations in the South are a tit- for- tat for the on- going security forces operations in Wanni. Small teams of Special Forces Commandos and Special Infantry Operation Troops have stepped up military operations ahead of their defence localities in the Northern and Wanni defence lines.

Heavy fighting flared up in Mannar early this week as the Tigers fought back to re-take the Adampan area which was secured by the security forces on December 1.
Waves of Tiger cadres, attacked the newly established security force positions in Adampan, supported by a heavy volume of 81 and 120 mortar fire. The Army said that intercepted Tiger communications had revealed that at least 35 LTTE cadres were killed and 25 others wounded. Six soldiers were killed and twenty wounded in action and were admitted to the Vavuniya, Mannar and Anuradhapura hospital.

Captured Adampan

Earlier in the week, Commandos of the 2nd Commando Battalion and infantry units of the 8 Singha Regiment, captured Adampan after a day- long battle.

Operating under the darkness of the wee hours of the morning, troops struck a Tiger bunker line, which had been positioned to fend off the advance of the security forces. The Army said 28 Tiger cadres were killed and 57 were wounded in the confrontation. Advancing towards, the Tiger territory, the troops came under a heavy barrage of 81 and 120 mm mortar fire. They dodged most of it, but there were inevitable casualties. Five soldiers were killed in action and 25 others suffered injuries, mainly due to indirect fire and anti personnel mines. On the same day, heavy fighting flared up in Periyathampanai, west of Omanthai, which had been the theatre for some of the fierce battles during the past six months. Troops overran a fortified Tiger position at Periyathampanai, breaching a Tiger bunker line. Military sources citing intercepted Tiger communications said at least 20 cadres were killed and 25 injured in the fighting.

Troops stepped up operations ahead of their northern defence localities. Special Infantry Operation Troops operating in small teams, sneaked in to the Tiger territory on Wednesday, killing five cadres.

In another incident, the Army said thirteen LTTE cadres were killed in clashes at Kilali and Nagarkovil. Two soldiers were killed while five others were injured in the fighting. Two soldiers later succumbed to injuries.

Senior security officials say the Tigers have been forced to defend themselves on all fronts. As the security forces concentrate on purging the manpower of the Tigers .
This has forced the LTTE on a defensive mode . Lessons from history show that the Tigers struck Colombo, when they were crushed on the battle front. The LTTE has of late struck thrice in a fortnight. However, the danger is that the Tigers would opt fo a bigger attack to get the government on the defensive.

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