Saturday, June 09, 2007
Fresh fighting erupted between government troops and the LTTE in the east as troops backed by air cover yesterday moved further into the Thoppigala jungles, overrunning four LTTE camps and killing at least 30 guerrillas, sources said. The LTTE used at least three of its suicide cadres to thwart the offensive on Friday and yesterday. Two soldiers were killed and 24 injured by last afternoon.
After a three-week lull, the army on Friday started its advance further into the Thoppigala area where the LTTE is believed to be holed up following the previous military operations in the eastern province.
Kfir jets bombed LTTE targets as ground troops moved into Akkaraithivu, Verpanveli, Mavadioddai and Ibbanwewa areas north west of Batticaloa town. The army recovered six medium purpose machine guns, four Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers, 21 T 56 assault rifles, live ammunition and anti-personnel mines among other items.
Eight bodies of the LTTE cadres were handed over to the ICRC at Mahaoya last evening, military sources said. LTTE military spokesman Rasiah Illanthiriyan told The Sunday Times that heavy fighting between the two sides began at 5.30 a.m on Friday and lasted until yesterday.
“There were casualties on both sides, but we do not have the details immediately”, he said. The fresh fighting had no impact on the government’s efforts to send back the civilians to the already cleared areas as the fighting was reported about 15 kilometres from the location where villagers were being resettled.
Guerrillas are believed to have infiltrated into the government-controlled areas from Thoppigala and planted claymore mines targeting the passenger train at Vakaneri last week while in a separate incident they planted a claymore mine killing an STF officer in Kokkadichcholai.
As fresh fighting erupted more details of last weekend’s fighting between the LTTE and the army west of Omanthai emerged. Army has listed 24 soldiers as Missing in Action, 15 killed while 82 were injured and 52 of them were still seeking treatment in hospital.
After having lived in refugee camps 146 civilians of 47 families of Verugal, Vattavan, Mawaddichennei and Chena were able to come back to their villages last Monday as a result of the resettling programme. People were brought to their villages in CTB buses from the Muttur depot and were provided lunch by the Army.
Before settling down, the villagers visited the ancient Verugal Kovil and performed religious observances. They will be provided dry rations for two weeks and water tanks will be supplied.
The second stage of resettlement will take place on Thursday.
The LTTE has remained silent over the death of Nagulan, the special leader of its Charles Anthony Regiment who was hurriedly dispatched to the Tharavai area by Velupillai Prabhakaran on May 23 to help Jeyam and his men dodge attacks by the security forces, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.
Nagulan was killed along with six other senior LTTE cadres in an Army assault. Among the killed was Mala, a female LTTE leader of the Sodiya regiment, it said.
"The bodies of dead LTTE cadres were handed over to the LTTE through the ICRC. A Tamil Eelam identity card issued to Nagulan was also recovered from his belongings by the Army".
On May 25, pro-LTTE TamilNet reported that 7 bodies of Tiger cadres killed by Army troops had been handed over to the LTTE through the ICRC. The Batticaloa magistrate who conducted the post – mortem instructed one of the bodies to be handed over to the dead LTTE cadre's mother who identified her son, the report stated.
The TamilNet report acknowledged that there were two female cadres among the dead. However, the article did not report the death of Nagulan, MCNS said.
Nagulan was the mastermind behind many LTTE attacks spearheaded by the Charles Anthony regiment during recent times., it said.
Grim details of last week’s bloody battle in the general area west of Omanthai emerged as four soldiers who had been earlier declared missing in action reached the army lines on Thursday night. They were among 28 soldiers reported missing after the LTTE struck on the night of June 2.
Although 24 personnel are unaccounted for, 18 of them are believed to have been killed according to a well informed source.
The military acknowledged the possibility of some of those missing in action being captured by the LTTE. That could not be ruled out, an authoritative military official said.
He explained that the multi-pronged assault was directed at small groups of troops operating far ahead of the army frontline. At some places, troops had been about 10 kms in front of the line, he said.
Speculation is that the LTTE after monitoring the movement of these troops for some time engaged them in the face of a heavy artillery and mortar barrage from army positions.
The Tiger assault spearheaded by a devastating artillery and mortar attack on Pompeimadu had caused sizeable material losses to the army. The Sunday Island learns that a direct hit on an artillery dump at Pompeimadu had destroyed approximately 300 rounds of ammunition. The LTTE also captured a locally built armoured personnel carrier.
The LTTE claimed the lives of 15 soldiers and inflicted injuries on 82, well informed sources said. Contrary to initial government claims, the LTTE obviously had the upper hand at the last week’s battle it was admitted. But the sources stressed that the Tigers too suffered heavy losses in retaliatory attacks.
The army called for air strikes in support of their efforts to regain and consolidate their positions in the area. The government also declined to accept 11 bodies sent by the LTTE on the basis that they could not be identified.
The UNP severely criticized the government action both in and outside parliament. Sirikotha accused the government of failing at least to deliver soldiers’ bodies to their families in a bid to hide actual losses. This charge was vehemently refuted.
The attack was the worst since a disastrous army offensive at Muhamalai last October caused heavy losses both in terms of men and material.
The military said that troops were continuing operations in areas west of Omanthai. "We killed two LTTE cadres Friday night," a spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the army killed at least 30 LTTE cadres at Pankudaveli (north) Narakkanmulla (south) in the Troppigala jungles during a multi-pronged assault on LTTE defences on Friday. An elite Commando Regiment spearheaded the assault, a senior military official said, adding that troops returned to their bases after completing the operation.
Troops targeted four bases at Ibbanvila, Veppanveli, Akkaraitivu and Mavediodai. One soldier died in action while 20 wounded personnel were moved to hospitals in the region. The official said that Friday’s action took place deep in the Thoppigala jungles. Three LTTE cadres committed suicide to avoid being captured by the army.
Troops recovered six multi purpose machine guns, four rocket propelled grenade launchers, 21 T 56 assault rifles and a sizeable stock of ammunition, a spokesman said.
Meanwhile, informed military sources in Vavuniyaa confirmed that at least 20 SLA troopers were killed, 40 wounded, an ammunition dump was destroyed in Pampaimadu, and that the Tigers have seized a big haul of weapons in their raid Saturday night. Fighting is still continuing.
Heavy weapons such as Medium Machine Guns, AK-LMGs, 40 mm Grenade Launchers, 60 mm mortars were among the weapons seized by the Tigers, Ilanthiryan told media Sunday night.
One artillery battery was completely destroyed in Pampaimadu. 7 artilleries were destroyed, according to the Tiger military spokesman.
18 LTTE cadres were killed in action.
The photos issued by the LTTE to media indicate that the Tigers have recovered at least one dead SLA soldiers body.
The Tiger spokesman said the mission of their raid was succesful in restoring their FDL positions.
Medical sources said more than 40 wounded soldiers were admitted at Anuradhapura hospital from Vavuniyaa.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan military sources in Colombo have claimed SLA has inflicted heavy losses to the Tigers and said 35 SLA troopers were wounded in the attack.
According to Tiger officials, a fierce fighting was still continuing in the area where the SLA has been pushed back.
The SLA has launched an artillery barrage using Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers. Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) bombers were also engaged in bombing suspected Tiger positions.
The Tigers are yet to release details of the weapons and the military hardware seized from the SLA.
The artillery launchpad and ammunition dump at Pampaimadu were recently strengthened with the deployment of additional troops in the FDL.
This is the first time, the Tigers have breached the Sri Lankan FDL in Vavuniyaa after the resurgence of violence following the Norwegian brokered Ceasefire between the GoSL and the LTTE.The SLA has been engaged in a protracted campaign of offensive operations into LTTE territory in Vavuniyaa Mannaar border recently.
Exact death toll is not known.
More than 15 SLA soldiers were rushed to medical treatment from the artillery base.
Pampaimadu is located 10 km northwest of Vavuniyaa.
At least 30 Tamil Tiger rebels and one soldier were killed when Sri Lankan troops overran four guerrilla jungle bases, the defence ministry said Saturday.
Soldiers captured the bases of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during an offensive late Friday and early Saturday in the eastern Batticaloa district, the ministry said.
"The army confirms that 30 LTTE terrorists have been killed in the confrontations, including three who had committed suicide in desperation," the ministry said in a statement.
It said one soldier was killed and 17 others were wounded in the battles.
There was no available comment from the rebels. Both sides are known to inflate the losses of the other side while playing down their own casualties.
The report came as Japan's special envoy, Yasushi Akashi, was ending a four-day visit to the island Saturday. He said he was hopeful that the troubled peace process could be salvaged.
The escalating fighting since December 2005 has shattered a 2002 truce brokered by Norway. Since then, more than 5,000 people have been killed in the ethnic conflict.
The military said one soldier had been killed and 17 injured in the battle in an area of eastern jungle called Thoppigala, where the two sides have fought artillery and mortar bomb duels for weeks amid a new chapter in a two-decade civil war.
The Tigers said they had no immediate details of any casualties from the latest fighting.
"We estimate troops killed 30 Tigers, plus three Tigers committed suicide in front of our troops," a spokesman for the Media Centre for National Security said, asking not to be named in line with policy. He said troops had overrun four Tiger bases.
"I think this might be the last battle in Thoppigala," he added, referring to a military campaign to stamp the rebels out in the east, where the insurgents were evicted from a former stronghold in January.
Japanese peace envoy Yasushi Akashi said on Saturday he was worried by human rights violations blamed on both the Sri Lankan state and the Tamil Tigers, as police returned hundreds of deported Tamils to the capital in a U-turn.
However, unlike Britain and the United States which have both suspended some aid citing rights abuse concerns, Akashi said Japan -- Sri Lanka's chief financial donor -- would continue with its multi-million-dollar aid programmes.
During his five-day stay in Sri Lanka police banished hundreds of Tamils to the war-torn north citing security concerns, nine mutilated corpses were found north of Colombo and the Tigers and military fought deadly battles, but the Japanese envoy remained optimistic.
"In the domain of human rights, much still remains to be done. There are obviously deficiencies and shortcomings," Akashi told a news conference, listing "that unfortunate action of eviction of Tamil residents from lodges in Colombo and many other acts of disappearances, abductions, extrajudicial killings..."
"They are too numerous and they are unacceptable for a civilised country like Sri Lanka," he added. "I very much hope these problems will be energetically addressed by all concerned."
Rights groups have reported hundreds of abductions and disappearances blamed on both sides. President Mahinda Rajapaksa argues many of those reports are fake and designed to discredit his government and denies the security forces are involved.
"My meeting with the president of the country as well as other leaders has convinced me that the commitment for peace is still there," Akashi said. "I am going back with a certain amount of hope and optimism as to the future of this country."
Hours before Akashi spoke, dozens of minority ethnic Tamils forcibly ejected from the capital by armed officers on Thursday were transported back to Colombo after the Supreme Court issued an order blocking any further evictions.
Police had justified the deportation as a security measure following attacks blamed on the rebels in and around the capital in recent months, saying it was also an effort to eject any potential Tiger infiltrators from Colombo. Government ministers argued the evictions were voluntary.
Following the court order and amid widespread international condemnation of the move, Rajapaksa's office issued a statement saying he had launched an inquiry into the police operation and would discipline anyone found guilty of wrongdoing.
Akashi said he hoped a cross-party initiative to come up with a consensus devolution proposal to end the conflict would eventually bear fruit.
However the Tigers have already dismissed the proposals of Rajapaksa's ruling party, which offer the Tigers less autonomy than they already have. Analysts see no winner on the horizon in a war that has killed nearly 70,000 people since 1983 and displaced more than 500,000.
Military is a profession that respects and hold rich customs and etiquette. It is these customs and etiquette and their resultant ethical behaviour that distinguish a professional military from a bunch of murderers or a terrorist outfit. Moreover for an outfit as such, military ethics may be viewed as something that can be manipulated to gain propaganda mileage. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or the LTTE is one such terror outfit that often deprave military ethics in the meanest manner to further its sinister motives.
Many pro LTTE websites reported one such shameful drama enacted by the LTTE terrorists at their sanctum sanctorum in Wanni. The reports said that the LTTE had cremated eleven bodies of "SL army soldiers" killed in recent clashes in Omanthai with "military honours". Further, the reports blamed SL army for not accepting the bodies once they had sent through ICRC and denying an honourable funeral to those who sacrificed their life in battle. The defence.lk learnt from senior defence officials that this was another abominable trick of the LTTE leadership to bring discredit to SL army as well as to dupe his own cadres. We were further edified on the issue as we learnt some of the highly classified information on the LTTE's behaviour towards its own cadre through intelligence sources.
Defence sources have recently revealed, how the LTTE leadership denied the final rights to one of his senior most cadres, Sinnathambi Kanapathipille Shivamoorthi alias "Colonel Nagulan". Self styled colonel Nagulan was killed along with six other LTTE cadres by the army at Eravur in Batticaloa on 23rd May 2007. Self styled Major Maniwannan Master, the LTTE's intelligence coordinator for Batticaloa; and LTTE female cadre Mala, a senior member of LTTE's Sothiya band were also killed in the same confrontation.
Nagulan was the leader of the LTTE's "Charles Anthony" band and known to be one of the most battle hardened members of the LTTE. A senior defnce official speaking exclusively to defence.lk said, that Nagulan had taken over the Charles Anthony band in the year 2006. The band is one of the LTTE's oldest fighting units named after the son of terror chief V. Prabhakaran. Nagulan was appointed as the leader of the band after the death of Weeramani who died in an accidental explosion at Nagarkovil, the official further added.
The LTTE identity card found with the body and a video of Nagulan speaking at an LTTE camp were also provided as a proof.
"Nagulan was an exception from other Wanni LTTE leaders. He used to lead from the front and his loss will certainly have an adverse effect on the terror outfit" the official said.
"The bodies were later handed over to the LTTE through the ICRC. One female body was identified by the parents as of their young daughter abducted by the LTTE and taken to their residence at Batticaloa. The other six were taken to Thoppigala by the ICRC" the official further said.
According to the sources, Nagulan along with other senior LTTE cadres were buried in a mass grave without any funeral honours. Not a word was published on any of the Pro LTTE websites on Nagulan's death.
In early April 2007, the LTTE played a similar drama in Wanni by giving an enemy burial for over 50 of its own cadres. The LTTE cadres who were killed in action during the end of March and early April in North of Mannar were buried in a mass grave as "army" soldiers, before a large gathering of junior LTTE cadres. An ICRC official who had also seen the bodies reported to army that he saw over 50 mutilated bodies clad with army overalls being piled up at an LTTE camp. The LTTE heads in the area had refused to hand over the bodies except one to the ICRC, though they had claimed that the bodies belonged to army. Up on receipt of the body army officials identified the body as one of the soldier who had gone on missing after the battle. However, the military proved with its records that the bodies buried by the LTTE did not belonged to any of the army soldiers.
Warfare is essentially based on deception. As epic military genius, Sun Tzu once told, it is customary for any professional military to pretend incapable when capable, inactive when active, far away when closing in and vice versa. Thus, a military may hold certain information from the public on its successes as well as failures in order to ensure unhindered operation to achieve the larger objective.
However, no organized military can hide their death figures since it must inform the fate of the soldier to his /her next of kin and keep its records updated. With regard bodies of own soldiers held by the enemy, armed forces even fight separate battles to acquire them if the enemy refuse to hand them over. SL military is no exception.
In the chaotic situation in battle, it is obviously impossible to state exact numbers of deaths and casualties until the situation permits a proper head count. Military Spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarashinghe on Wednesday (06th) announced that army has lost 15 soldiers and few others had gone on missing. Still this figures may change as the missing soldiers are turning up daily. However, Brigadier Samarasinghe clearly stated that there were no army soldiers among the eleven dead bodies sent back to the LTTE.
Military intelligence has revealed that the LTTE's main objective has now changed to capturing a Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher before Jaffna battle. MBRL rocket fire had caused severe damages to LTTE formations in Jaffna last August and it was one of the reasons the army did not lose any of the FDLs back then.
Meanwhile, it has now been confirmed that LTTE units clad in army uniform took part in Vavuniya battle. These units spoke in Sinhala and even managed to lure an army attack group into a trap. Group leader was shot dead but the soldiers managed to return to base later. The captured army Buffel too fell into a trap set by 'Sinhala speaking tigers'. When the Buffel went to battlefield to retrieve casualties, one of the disguised tigers had told the driver that there were more wounded soldiers left, in Singhalese. When the driver drove deeper into LTTE held areas as per instructions by the tigers, it was hit by an RPG and was captured by the tigers.( Special Forces of SLA later recovered the vehicle.)
A day after the main LTTE offensive was ended, army's Special Forces units staged a devastating counterattack on newly captured LTTE positions. This took the tigers by surprise and caused them to flee from most captured areas. LTTE had captured 3 SLA mortar positions (with launchers) in the battle. However, tigers had fled leaving behind the captured launchers (with no harm done to them) when SF attacked and secured the mortar positions.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka Air Force had flown 8 bombing sorties in Vavuniya area since the battle. MiG27 ground attack aircraft pounded LTTE artillery positions and newly raised LTTE defenses with greater accuracy. In fact it was the aerial raids which caused most of LTTE casualties.
It was falsely reported in pro LTTE media that nearly 7 artillery batteries were destroyed due to a ' commando style raid' by LTTE on SLA artillery base at Pompaimadu. DefenceNet learns that this claim is entirely false. The only artillery battery damaged in this battle was hit by LTTE long range fire. LTTE's ground troops never reached Pompaimadu base to carry out a commando raid. They were stopped (and later routed) near the Forward Defense Lines by soldiers of the 57th division.
SL army troops during last 24 hours overran four LTTE camps in Pankudaweli North, and Naarakmulla South, Military sources said.
Military Spokesman Brigadier Prasad Smarasinghe said, that four LTTE camps at, Ibbanvila, Akkarathivu, Mawadi-ode, and Veppanveli have been captured by SL Army troops.
"Over 30 LTTE cadres were killed during the battle, and the troops have found eight dead bodies so far", Brigadier Smarasinghe said. He added that if the situation permits bodies would be handed over to the ICRC this evening.
Military sources form the east said, three of the LTTE cadres committed suicide when the army charged ahead. Same sources said many more LTTE bodies have been seen lying in the ground but yet to be collected.
One soldier was killed and 17 other sustained injuries during the battle. The injured were rushed to the hospitals.
The army during the subsequent search has so far found 06 Multi Purpose Machine Guns (MPMG), 21 T-56 assault riffles, 04 Rocket Propeller Grenade (RPG) launchers, and a large quantity of Anti Personnel (AP) mines and Ammunitions.
Clearing operations are still continuing.
Bombers of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) 10th fighter squadron carried out two bombing sorties on identified LTTE targets in the Kilinochchi district today. Each bombing raid involved 5 supersonic bombers from SLAF's jet bomber fleet. LTTE's airstrip at Iranamadu was among the targets that were hit.
Meanwhile clashes still continued near the Vavuniya FDLs where LTTE launched a major offensive to recapture territory few days ago. SLA defended the multi pronged LTTE offensive at two fronts and pulled back from one front to minimize casualties. During the last two days, SLA's ground troops advanced further from their FDLs at defended battlefronts to engage in combat with LTTE units scattered there. Some small attack groups of SLA have ventured as much as 2km into previously LTTE territory. However the LTTE still holds the Mullikulama area which they captured when 57th division pulled back from their FDL.
Though the Security Forces are greatly committed to the Ceasefire Agreement the Tiger outfit made use of the Ceasefire to spy on the Security Forces’ defences and gun positions as they were not genuinely committed to the Ceasefire Agreement.
Prior to the Tiger assault on the Jaffna defences in August last year, the Tiger outfit made use of the A-9 road which was opened for the public to induct more than 80 men for direct observation of the artillery gun positions of the Security Forces ahead of the Muhamalai FDL.
The direct observation of the Security Forces artillery gun positions enabled the Tiger outfit to fire artillery rounds on the Security Forces gun positions during the battle in Jaffna last year.
The Security Forces were put into a disadvantageous situation during the confrontations in Muhamalai last year but were able to repulse the attack on the Muhamalai defences, thus taking over the areas ahead of the Security Forces defences overrunning the Tiger defences.
However, the Security Forces were able to put an end to their spying missions after the closure of the A-9 road from Muhamalai entry exit point.
However, the Tigers made use of the same tactic in Vavuniya too this week by sending their cadres to the cleared areas in Vavuniya to engage in espionage mingling with the civilian population.
They made use of the Army’s leniency towards the civilian population to their advantage to infiltrate the area through the Omanthai entry/exit point now open for the public, three days a week.
Villagers living peacefully with the help of the Army were used to infiltrate the gun positions at Pampaimadu in Vavuniya where the 130 mm gun was located.
According to intelligence sources five to six Tiger cadres have infiltrated to the Government held area in Pampaimadu Northwest of Vavuniya equipped with Ground Positioning Equipment, military communication sets, compasses, binoculars, night vision devices and satellite images to direct artillery fire to the gun positions.
They infiltrated the Pampaimadu gun position of the Security Forces mingling with the civilian population.
The infiltration of the Tiger cadres to the Pampaimadu gun position was witnessed on last Saturday as the Tiger cadres started firing artillery into the gun position around 8 p.m.
The Tigers’ 130 artillery rounds started to fall on Pampaimadu artillery gun position 8 p.m. The forth artillery round fell exactly within the artillery position while the previous three artillery rounds did not fall on to the target.
During this attack eight rounds of 130 mm artillery rounds had fallen to the ammo dump in the gun position creating huge explosions in the vicinity.
The Tiger artillery fire destroyed the ammo dump where 763 130 mm artillery rounds were stored. More than 50 artillery rounds were air bursted.
With the intercepted Tiger communications the Security Forces were able to detect the Tiger artillery position and they later neutralised the gun position located in Palampiddi area with the support of the Sri Lanka Air Force.
As the major blast was taking place in Pampaimadu the Tiger cadres launched an assault on the troops operating in Paliyakulam area on the Palampiddi Vavuniya road.
The troops were operating two kilometres ahead of the FDL in West of Omanthai.
Paliyankulam is located ahead of the Security Forces FDL west of Omanthai.
The Security Forces deployed these troops as a part of the ongoing operations to neutralise Tiger gun positions ahead of the Security forces’ defences in the east and west of Madhu.
The troops operating in Paliyankulam area readjusted their defences in the face of the Tiger assault and later recaptured the area flushing out Tiger cadres on Sunday morning.
As the Tiger fire was directed at Pampaimadu gun position the LTTE cadres also launched a simultaneous attack on troops operating in Vavunaperiyakulam on the Vilanthikulam - Vavuniya road. Tiger cadres infiltrated into the defences compelling the troops to adjust their defences.
During the battle in Vavunaperiyakulam, a locally manufactured buffel went ahead of the FDL to bring in four soldiers who were injured during the confrontation. While returning the buffel got caught in a huge explosion due to RPG fire and toppled.
The Army was not able to recover the buffel but just hours later the Tamil Net website carried a picture of the buffel which was caught in the explosion. The buffel that appeared in the website was in good shape.
However, the Army while being doubtful of the picture as the buffel was heavily damaged due to Tiger fire, at the same time, raised doubts about the number of the buffel as the Tigers had clearly focused on the number.
The doubts were raised based on the four digit number that appeared in the photograph as the Army usually uses a five digit number for buffels. The number appeared in the buffel in the photograph was the number of an Army ambulance in Vavuniya.
The damages caused to the buffel due to Tiger fire was not visible in the picture. Therefore, while accepting the fact that Army had lost one of its buffels during the battle they raise doubts about the pictures of buffels that appeared in the TamilNet website.
Therefore, it is up to the people to decide whether these pro-LTTE websites are giving accurate information or not.
As wrong information was spreading all over the country through the LTTE websites about the confrontations west of Omanthai, the Tiger cadres in Thampanaion, Madhu - Parayanalankulam launched an attack on the Security Forces on Tuesday around 4 p.m.
The area was located three kilometres north of the Security Forces FDL west of Omanthai.
Troops repulsed the Tiger attack that came from the northern direction killing four Tiger cadres.
On the same day around 2 p.m. the troops at Mandimuruppu Vavuniya also came under Tiger assault but moved tactically to counter the attack.
Once the Tiger cadres withdrew from the area in face of heavy resistance from the troops they were again ambushed by the troops killing 20 Tiger cadres.
During the battles on Saturday night in Pompaimadu, Vavunaperiyakulam, according to technical sources of the Security Forces, 62 Tiger cadres have been killed and 89 have sustained injuries.
The Security Forces too suffered heavily losing 17 soldiers, out of which 15 bodies have already been recovered. They accepted two bodies identified as soldiers after the LTTE handed over 15 bodies to the Security Forces through the ICRC.
Eighty one soldiers have also been injured during these battles and 35 have already returned to the battle after undergoing treatment at hospitals.
However, Security Forces have lost contact with three small groups during these battles. Two officers are among them. Till yesterday evening they have not communicated with the Security Forces.
According to intercepted communications of the LTTE after the battles in the west of Omanthai 11 Tiger leaders were among the 86 Tiger cadres killed in the confrontation in the battles on June 2, 3 and June 5.
In addition to this 89 cadres have also been injured during these battles.
The LTTE have announced the names of Arivannan and Kutti in the self-styled rank of ‘Captain’, eight leaders Anandan, Kandaikumar, Kanaruban, Ariyan, Murali, Kandakumaran, Kanawanan and Kalai Cheliyan in the ranks of ‘Lieutenant’ and ‘Second Lieutenant’ Purachchi among the leaders killed during these confrontations.
According to information more than 500 cadres have participated in these battles as one leader was commanding nearly 40 Tiger cadres.
The Tiger outfit, despite the false propaganda carried out in the wake of the battles in Vavuniya has suffered heavily during their desperate attempt to put a blockade to the advancing troops ahead of Security Forces defences in the north of Vavuniya.
Now, troops are in good shape to face the Tiger attacks and consolidated the areas which were recaptured from the LTTE.
The Tiger cadres are making these desperate attempts as they now fear that their strongholds in the Wanni will also fall into the hands of the Security Forces as in the East.
They made this desperate attempt after their failed attempt to infiltrate the defences in Delft islands last month in a bid to create panic in the Jaffna peninsula.
They are well aware that they cannot come out of this situation which is not in favour of them at all with the loss of areas in the East.
Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has given strict orders to the Eastern leaders to stick to the area despite continuous attacks on Tiger camps in the Thoppigala jungles.
He is well aware that they will not be able to fight with the Security Forces if they do not get enough man power to face the battles in the Wanni.
The Security Forces have now confined the Tiger cadres to a 11 square kilometres jungle patch in Thoppigala and have expedited the process to defeat Tiger outfit completely from the East.
According to Tiger sources Prabhakaran has given instructions to create a problematic situation in the East so that they can hold their territory in the Thoppigala jungles by diverting the Security Forces’ attention towards maintaining law and order in the newly liberated areas.
The explosion of a pressure mine targeting the Colombo bound train at Vakaneri junction in Punani, Batticaloa was one such attempt by the LTTE to give a message to the international community that they still have control in the East.
However, the bomb did not make any impact as only a few compartments and the engine were damaged in the explosion with minimum casualties to the passengers.
The Tiger outfit is opting for these tactics at a time the Government is in the process of completing the resettlement of the displaced civilians in the Eastern province.
The second stage of the resettlement of civilians in Kokkadicholai in the West and South of Batticaloa is now nearing completion with the resettlement of 25,000 people belonging to 6,700 families in 24 villages.
The third and final phase of the resettlement process is due to be started on June 15 to resettle 38,000 people in 24 villages in Vavunathivu area.
The LTTE is disturbed due to the speedy progress reported in resettling people as the international community is focusing their attention in the Eastern province with the Government announcing the province now accessible to foreign diplomats to observe the situation there.
Japanese Special Peace Envoy Yasushi Akashi also visited Vakarai yesterday to observe the progress of the resettlement of displaced civilians.
Visits of this nature are not in favour of the LTTE as the international community will be able to see a vast difference among the people as they free of Tiger claws to spend a life free of terror.
Therefore, the Tigers will do everything possible to turn the situation in favour of them by engaging in various barbaric acts to disturb the peaceful situation in the Eastern province.
Under this circumstances the Security Forces will have to act with greater responsibilities to take the situation strictly under their control so that they can put pressure on the LTTE until they are brought to the negotiating table.
Coincidentally, the LTTE launched this attack a few hours after Army Commander Sarath Fonseka had toured the area during the day, to inspect the security situation in the area. After this inspection, Lt. General Fonseka advised his senior officers about the imminent and possible threats to the area.
It is not confirmed whether these intelligence reports had been taken seriously by the commanding officers, when considering the death toll and casualty figure resulting from the Tiger attack.
The Tigers first launched their attack on Saturday (03) around 7.45 in the night on the Kalmadu Army Camp, where the 57 Division had been established. A barrage of 130 mm artillery shells fell around the camp for more than 30 minutes, leading the military to retaliate with powerful artillery guns.
Around 8.30 pm, the LTTE fired towards the Pompemadhu Artillery base, where several 130 mm Artillery guns had been located. The first shell fell some five kilometres away from the base. When that occurred, knowing that the purpose of the Tigers was to target the military’s artillery base, where the 16 Battery (Company) of the Sixth Artillery Unit was established, the Commanding officer of the base, a young Major ordered his men to fire back using 130 mm artillery guns. He also ordered his men to fire elsewhere, beyond the camp in order to target any LTTE cadres who had infiltrated the area.
A few hours after the exchange of artillery fire between both parties, a shell fell and exploded in one of the mini ammunition dumps where 130 mm artillery shells were stored, setting it on fire. Before the fire could spread to other two mini ammunition dumps in the camp, officers and soldiers started pouring water on the other two dumps in order to keep the artillery shells that were in them at a low temperature as they would automatically explode if the temperature exceeded a certain temperature.
Due to this fire in the mini ammunition dump, the firing of artillery guns had been stopped, as it was dangerous to operate them which were located near the ammunition dump. A few minutes later another Tiger shell hit the communication centre of the base, disconnecting its communications with other detachments and the bunker line. At that time as there were no artillery attack on the Tigers, more than 250 LTTE cadres stormed the bunker line of the military at Pokkaravani area, north of Madhu, situated few kilometres towards to the Tiger held areas and started to fire indiscriminately. Manning the bunker line were soldiers of the 9th Gemunu Regiment and 4th Sinha Regiment. This bunkerline had been the LTTE’s Forward Defense Lines a few months earlier and was now under the control of the military. Since there were no communication link with the base and the soldiers in the frontlines the Tigers were able to easily infiltrate the cleared areas.
With the breakdown in communications, the young Major used his personnel mobile phone to keep contact with his senior commanding officials as well as the ground commanders.
However, a fierce battle continued during the night until the next morning. The soldiers and officers meanwhile had managed to save the other two mini dumps. One dump however had been completely destroyed, though initially the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) denied such an incident.
Meanwhile, in the early hours of the next day, two vehicles, a Buffel (Personnel Carrier vehicle) and a Bollero jeep were sent to transport casualties. But they did not return and Tamilnet later carried a picture of the Buffel claiming that they captured it from the army.
It is also learnt that by Saturday night the LTTE captured Mullikulam and some other areas in the Pokkarawani areas. On Sunday the Army was able to communicate with other troops spread over the area and artillery attacks were launched from the Pompemadhu base targeting the Tiger artillery locations. Later in the day, the Special Forces of the Sri Lanka Army launched a surprise attack in order to clear the area and rescue trapped soldiers. After few hours of fierce battles, the Tigers who had infiltrated the military FDLs fled towards area under their control due to the heavy resistance by the SF soldiers.
During that military operation, the SF soldiers were able to recapture the two vehicles and also destroy some mortar launching pad locations. However, as a precautionary measure, troops pulled back few metres from their initial positions until the other areas where some LTTE cadres had gone into hiding were cleared and consolidated.
Until yesterday heavy exchange of artillery fire continued to be reported in the areas. Both sides have reportedly suffered heavy casualties, but neither party has given the exact casualty figures yet.
Since Sunday, the Sri Lanka Air force conducted at least eight air raids over Tiger targets in the area especially in the Palampiddi area, where the Tigers were firing artillery at the military since Saturday.
The military claimed that it had intercepted Tiger communications which stated that at least one LTTE artillery gun had been destroyed due to the series of air raids.
It had also been reported of a major military buildup around the Palampiddi area since Saturday.
Though the MCNS claimed that by Wednesday, only 15 soldiers were killed and 13 soldiers were missing during the fierce battle, the LTTE claimed that more than 30 soldiers were killed and it had lost only 18 of their cadres. But according to ground information the actual figure is very high. As at yesterday more than 94 soldiers were injured and around 30 soldiers were killed. Over 30 soldiers have gone missing after the battle. However some of these missing injured soldiers were returning to base. On the LTTE side, it is now reported that more than 60 LTTE cadres were killed and at least 50 cadres injured. However most of them were injured or killed due to air force bombing.
After this latest assault by the LTTE, it is relevant to consider as to why the army should go into the LTTE held areas north of Madhu. According to ground commanders although the army is able to capture Tiger FDLs north of Madhu, no one sees any advantage in regaining only the land. The latest LTTE attack was a clear example that as long as the military is holding the land the military casualty figures would be high.
Most of the ground commanders feel that the LTTE, who lost the east, is now making every effort to save the Vanni region from government forces.
It is now clear that the LTTE Leader had sent his top military commanders to lead the Vavuniya military operation. LTTE’s former eastern special leader Swarnam, eastern military leader Bhanu, Mannar Sea Tiger Leader Lakshman and another top military leader Wannakkali Master had led the latest operation.
When considering the eastern region, the troops from the beginning had a clear purpose to wipe out the Tigers due to the closure of the sluice gate at Mawil Aru. The military launched the operation to liberate some ten thousand in Vakarai from the Tiger grip.
But in the case of the area surrounding Madhu, there was no clear purpose unless the army intends heading to capture Kilinochchi or some other LTTE military base.
As done in the east, the military could easily reduce the strength of the LTTE by launching small team operations. But what has happened now is that even before completing the resettlement in the east, the military has suffered two major defeats in the north.
When contacted by TamilNet, Liberation Tigers Military Spokesman Irasiah Ilanthirayan said heavy fighting ensued with the Sri Lankan forces along the Forward Defence localities in the villages Eera'laikku'lam, Palaamadu and Puluddumaan Oadai.
I refer to the news item in The Island of Friday 1st June, in which it was stated that Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena had appealed to the Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki Moon "to declare the area around the holy shrine of Madhu a Zone of Peace", in view of the escalation of the prevailing armed conflict.
Churches and Shrines
I do not say that Dr. J. J’s appeal was not based on a spontaneous gush of religious fervour. Yet, I think that this gush must be stanched in deference to facts that need to be acknowledged and interpreted in a proper context. The First Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon in 586/587 BCE. It was rebuilt and destroyed again by the Romans in 70 AD. Jesus Christ visited this temple and on one occasion drove out money-lenders and pigeon-peddlers (Matthew 21: 12). He also made the momentous statement to the Jews, "Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days"(John 2:19). In this statement he referred to the destruction of his body, his resurrection and the enduring deposit of his teaching. He made another astounding statement when his disciples told him, " Look teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings! He replied in the following words, "Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." (Mark 13: 1-2). Why did God permit the destruction of a Temple dedicated to his honour and why is the only remaining part of this edifice, known as the Wailing (Western) Wall, a subject of dispute between two parties who both believe in Him but with differing opinions on how he should be accessed here on earth?
The True Church
The word rock is used as a symbol of stability and durability as was the case with the wise man who built his house on a foundation of rock (Luke 6: 48) and Peter the leader of the disciples (Matthew 16: 18). It is also a symbol of infertility as was the case of the seed that fell on rocky ground (Luke 8: 6). I would say that the true Church of God is not built on the inanimate rock of smug religiosity but on the shifting sands of the human predicament, in the course of which permanence of faith in God heroically faces the impermanence of the transitory world. If one gathers a fistful of this sand in search of the single luminous grain of the Truth that is Jesus Christ, one is more likely to see the grimy dust of irony that insecurely binds his followers. The Romans destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem but by a curious twist of ecclesial destiny, the Church, which administers the Madhu shrine, has its headquarters in Rome. The ‘massive stones’ and the ‘magnificent buildings’ that Jesus Christ referred to, are found in churches and cathedrals especially in Europe. But alas these cavernous structures are untenanted. There are few worshippers. While religion may be a binding factor within groups, it is also a fissile factor between groups. There is a common misconception that religious fervour that is centralised in shrines and churches will induce peace to descend on earth in the form of a celestially anaesthetic mist. This has not happened and will not happen. This is what the ultimate authority on Christian teaching has to say: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword….A man’s foes will be the members of his own household" (Matthew 10: 34, 36). What this means is that Jesus Christ came, not to deliver peace as a commodity for mass consumption but as the gift of inner-peace to individuals, who were willing to adhere to his teaching. It is evident therefore that attempts by the Norwegians, the international community, the UN and others to deliver peace as a commodity for mass consumption is bound to fail.
The Madhu Shrine
This shrine, which is dedicated to the Mother of Jesus, is a hallowed one that is venerated especially by Christians of the Roman Catholic rite. Yet, Christians, just as much as they are told that they do not live by bread alone, do not live by shrines alone. Even if all the shrines and churches are destroyed the message of the Christian gospel will not be wiped out. This is true of other religions too. Neither the Portuguese nor the Dutch nor the British coming together in processional succession were able to wipe out Buddhism. If I may borrow a phrase used compulsively by professional peace-poodles, who cuddle themselves on laptops, it is evident that these mighty powers could not prevail over what they now deride as ‘majoritarian lust’. Dr. J. J should realise that his attempt to get the UN to declare Madhu as a Zone of Peace, is a shocking admission that this organisation should step in where God has apparently failed. Politicians have meddled with and muddled the polity and the economy and by doing so have ruined the lives of millions of Sri Lankans. Let them not tinker with religion in consort with mitred folly.
This little boy, who was among the evicted Tamil lodge dwellers taken to Vavuniya on Thursday, looks out of the bus window as they were allowed to go to places of their choice following yesterday’s Supreme Court order. (Pic. by Suneetha Gamage)