Friday, September 07, 2007

Surprise the key element as Forces capture Silavathura

Huge blow to Tigers' supply system, tax collection:

MAJOR VICTORY: The news about the military operation to liberate the areas in the South of Mannar came as a surprise not only to the LTTE but to the Security Forces.

Even the troops involved in the operation were informed about the launch of the operation on Friday night after the decision was taken last Friday at the National Security Council.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave the nod for the launch of this humanitarian operation after his arrival in Colombo from Kandy.

Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka moved the proposal to the Security Council emphasising the need to liberate the area from the clutches of the LTTE as Tigers were exploiting the population in Silavatura, Arippu who made fishing their lifeline.

Security Forces have received enough proof to say that the LTTE cadres mingling with the fishing community smuggle arms and ammunition and fuel to the area as they were experiencing an acute shortage of fuel in the unliberated areas.

One of the major contributing factors towards launching this operation to liberate the area was due to the continuous threats posed by the LTTE to military vehicles plying on the Mannar-Vavuniya road, the only supply route connected to Mannar town.

The presence of Tiger cadres in the South of Mannar provided many chances for the LTTE to cut off this Main Supply Route to Mannar and isolate the Security Forces in a decisive battle that may erupt in the Wanni under present conditions.

The possibility is very high with the strong presence of Tiger cadres in the Vidithalthivu in the North of Mannar a few Kilometres away from Mannar.

The LTTE is aware of this situation and made use of their presence in the area to launch claymore attacks on a number of Security Forces vehicles plying on the Vavuniya Mannar road.

The most recent attack was reported at Cheddikulam on the Medawachchiya - Mannar road killing 10 soldiers, wounding 19 including 13 civilians on July 24 this year.

If the LTTE musters their resources and launches an attack on Police posts or Army detachments established along the Mannar Vavuniya road, they could have easily cut off the road to induct their cadres from Wanni to South of Mannar in preparation of a major offensive against the Security Forces.

The threats on the civilian population living in the border of Puttalam and Anuradhapura districts was also a contributing factor for the launch of this operation as it helps strengthening the security of the settlements in Mahavilachchiya, Tantirimale and various other villages.

The LTTE posed a threat to many Home Guards deployed to secure these villages. They were attacked recently by the Tiger cadres. Four Home Guards were killed on July 24 in a pre dawn attack in Thiruwegama in the border of Vavuniya.

Earlier in April seven villagers including six women were massacred by the LTTE in Awaranthulawa, Paleuruwa in the border of Vavuniya.

In this backdrop it had become a compulsory factor for the Security Forces to launch this operation to strengthen the security of these villages.

From the Navy point of view the presence of the LTTE in Silavatura and Arippu in the South was a greater threat for the Naval patrol craft deployed for the security of Colombo harbour as the LTTE used to move to attack Colombo harbour mingling with the fishermen.

Sea Tiger cadres make use of the license issued to fishermen in Puttalam and Battalangunduwa to smuggle arms and ammunition to LTTE controlled areas posing as civilian fishermen.

On many occasions Sea Tigers launched attacks on Naval troops patrolling in the sea off Kalpitiya reaching the Naval craft in the guise of fishermen.

Apart from this the LTTE also made use of the area to send suicide cadres and explosives to Colombo from this area since it was the only available route for the LTTE to send in their cadres to Colombo.

This background provided reasons for the Security Forces to launch another humanitarian operation to liberate the area from the clutches of the LTTE.

Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka along with Wanni Security Forces Commander Major General Jagath Jayasuriya commanded the troops engaged in the Silavatura operation.

The humanitarian operation was commenced without any operation plan to maintain the secrecy of the operation as Security Forces did in the Eastern operations too.

Arrangements were made through the Area Headquarters in Mannar under the command of Brigadier Channa Goonetilleke, to accommodate the civilians from Silavatura and Arippu at several welfare centres until the humanitarian mission was completed.

According to statistics available with the Government Agent and the Non Government Organisations operating in Silavatura and Mannar area, there have been around 6,000 civilians in the area.

However the Security Forces realised that the figure was an exaggerated one, as the total number of civilians arriving in the cleared areas in Mannar did not exceed 3,000 even by Wednesday morning.

This number was reported except the civilians living in Mulliyavali area in the South of Silavatura who had not arrived in Government held areas even by Wednesday morning.

However, According to Mannar Government Agent Nicholes Pillai there was a SoS call from the civilians living in Mulliyavali to reach liberated areas as they have been already trapped in the area without food.

Therefore, the Security Forces believe that either civilians have left the area for various other places or the figure has been exaggerated by the NGOs to bring in supplies to the area to feed the LTTE as there were no other means for the LTTE to depend on food and other essential items such as fuel.

With the civilians in Arippu, and Silavatura and Kondachchi arriving in Murunakan and Nananddan, 1 SF troops commanded by Major Ihalagama under the Command of SF Brigade Commander Nirmal Dharmaratna moved into the area along with the 9 Gemunu Watch battalion commanded by Lt. Colonel Pradeep Perera.

The leading role was played by the Special Forces troops under the command of Colonel Nirmal Dharmaratne. Weeks prior to the launch of the operation they inducted reckie teams in to the area to observe the situation there and to cut off cut off all LTTE supply routes to the area.

As SF troops completed their mission inside Silavatura the ground troops were given instructions to move into the area in the early Saturday morning troops attached to 8 GW move into the area along the Murunkan Silavatura road.

Though they expected Tiger resistance at Kompansinthakulam bridge across Malwathu Oya or Arivu Aru they faced no resistance.

The 9 Gemunu Watch, 8 Sinha Regiment and 10 Gajaba Regiment were used to cut off the supply routes while Special Forces troops played the leading role.

The Bravo Company of the 8 GW battalion, commanded by Captain Imesh Habadivulvewa took control of the bridge which was earlier used by the LTTE as a tax collecting centre from the people and from the tractors transporting sand.

As Bravo Company took control of the bridge with no resistance Charley Company of the 9GW under the leadership of Captain Bandaranaike moved towards Chaddyappankulam junction on the Murunkan - Silavatura road.

From the Silavatura junction on the Murunkan - Silavatura junction two companies Delta Company under the leadership of Captain MUC Perera and Delta Company led by Captain Sampath moved in two directions to take control of Arippu.

As troops of the 9 Gemunu Watch were taking control of Arippu Silavatura was sealed off completely by the 9 GW troops. The troops attached to 8 Sinha Regiment were helidropped from Vavuniya to completely cut off Silavatura from the South.

Each Battalion has been given different tasks and were not aware of the other battalions involved in the operations. By the time 8SR troops were heli dropped to Kajuwatta area, 9 GW troops were not aware of their movements.

Surprise was fully maintained during the whole operation and 8 SR troops along with the 1 SF troops advanced towards the Silavatura from Kajuwatta area. By Sunday morning troops took full control of Silavatura capturing a Sea Tiger base.

Two Tiger cadres the intelligence leader and the political leader of Silavatura area were killed in a claymore attack with Special Forces troops cutting off the supply routes to the area.

Troops believe that many Tiger cadres fled the area by sea southwards and towards the Vedithalthivu north of Mannar despite the rough sea conditions in the area.

Despite the rough seas the Army started sending supplies to ground troops in Arippu by boat from Vankalai.

By Monday troops further advanced towards Kondachchi to take full control of the Silavatura area and consolidate their position in Silavatura.

Troops conducting search and clear operations in Silavatura found a Sea Tiger base along with ten boats and a suicide boat. Large stocks of RPG bombs, hand grenades, T-56 ammunition, detonators and explosives left behind by the fleeing Tiger cadres were recovered from the area.

The clandestine operations conducted by the Sea Tiger cadres were apparent during this search operations as troops found a few fishing boats fitted with claymore mines into the fibreglass bodies of the fishing boats.

It is very difficult to identify these suicide boats as they are similar to the normal fishing boats. They could be identified only by the detonator wires fixed to the boats.

The number of licences issued to civilians by the Navy to engage in fishing has also been recovered from this Sea Tiger base.

The recovery of these civilian identity cards from the Sea Tiger base very clearly indicates that the LTTE was using the licences issued for fishermen to smuggle arms and ammunition to their Tiger bases.

That was how the LTTE launched an attack on Naval craft in Battalangunduwa posing themselves as fishermen. With the use of these suicide boats the LTTE can reach the Navy boats and destroy them once they reach close to these boats to check their identity.

The troops have taken shelter at Government buildings like Divisional Secretariat offices, schools and other public offices in Arippu and Silavatura without touching any private property belonging to the civilians who left the area with the advancement of troops.

Civilians who had left the area with the advancement of troops towards Silavatura, have now taken refuge at Don Bosco Church in Murunkan and Nanaddan Maha Vidyalaya until the Security Force declare the area free of LTTE threat.

These civilians now come out with the suffering they had undergone at the hands of the LTTE as they had to live under the pressure of the LTTE. One Vijayalakshmi who had arrived there in Silavatura from Kebithigollewa area had not been allowed to go back to her village.

She has been asked to live with her relatives there in Silavatura and had not been allowed to use even a telephone suspecting that she would give information to Security Forces.

These civilians are willing to return to their villages under the protection of the Security Forces to live a normal life like the civilians living in other parts of the country.

Therefore, they will soon be given the chance to return their villages very soon as Security Forces have almost completed their task of clearing the area in Silavatura to establish civilian administration.

Though some elements describe the victory of the Security Forces in Silavatura as mere capture of lands with no Tiger resistance, it was the strategy adopted by the Security Forces to liberate the area that compelled the LTTE to flee from the area.

Though the LTTE highly boasted about the fighting capabilities they were not capable of fighting a professional Army. What they should consider is that these type of military successes will definitely will pave the way for the success in future operations in the Wanni to capture LTTE strongholds.

No strong Army can capture any territory without moving to the target step by step. The task before the Security Forces is to liberate the civilian population from the clutches of the LTTE to free them from the harassments of the LTTE.

It is absolutely nonsensical to think of capturing Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi directly without liberating the people in other parts in the North and East.

That should be done considering the manpower and the firepower available with the Armed Forces. Now the Forces are on track to achieve their task once the time is ripe for them to move into the strongholds in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.


Special Forces destroying LTTE morale, combat power

In Sri Lanka, one of the more successful units of the army are the “Deep Penetration Units,” that go into rebel territory to collect information, and destroy rebel morale and combat power. These are Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRPs). They belong to the Sri Lankan Special Force Regiment, which was established in 1986.

A LRRP unit, of a hundred or so men, was organised in the 1990s. The unit’s existence and the names of those in it, were kept secret. That’s because the LTTE was expert at hunting down and assassinating anyone they wanted (including Heads of State and senior military commanders.)

Initial operations of the LRRPs were very successful, but LTTE spies found out about the LRRP unit, and who was in it. About 80 members of the LRRP unit were subsequently killed by the LTTE, and the LRRP unit was disbanded. But in the last few years, the LRRP unit, has been reformed and is back in action.

Sri Lanka has several Special Forces type units. There are three Army Commando Regiments, three Army Special Forces Regiments (SF), the Navy Special Boat Squadron (SBS), the Air Force Special Force and the Police Special Task Force. All of these are small organisations, full of carefully selected men (and a few women), who train hard, and are usually found heavily involved whenever there is a successful operation against the LTTE.

In the last five years, India and the United States has sent many of their own Special Forces troops to Sri Lanka to help train their Sri Lankan counterparts.