Thursday, January 10, 2008

Army advances ahead of Parappakandal

Fighting was reported along the Wanni defense lines for the past week where Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fiercely resisted several SLA advances into their territory. Heaviest of these battles was reported in the general area of Parappakandal in Mannar district. After overrunning the LTTE frontline in this area one week ago, troops have been trying to move further into LTTE held territory towards Wanni heartland. Even though these attempts were met with heavy resistance, SLA was able to break through several LTTE defensive positions in this area after prolonged firefights. 5 soldiers have been killed in these battles and another 14 have been wounded. At least 15 LTTE cadres are confirmed to be killed and another 30 more are wounded. By yesterday, security forces had advanced as much as one kilometer into LTTE territory ahead of Parappakandal. Troops consolidating defenses in newly captured areas came under heavy LTTE artillery fire yesterday (09th) night. 6 soldiers were injured in this incident and were rushed to the hospital.

Pro LTTE media once again stated that the army offensive was "repulsed". This is completely false. Although there were occasions where the operations were temporarily halted due to heavy resistance, they were later resumed after regrouping and employing different strategies which best suited the situation. And it must be said that all these "offensives" are small group based attacks. So far there has not been any mass troop movement into Wanni.

Even though fighting has been going on for several months, both sides have not yet unleashed their full strength. LTTE has not largely exposed their hard core cadres to battle. According to military intelligence, their elite formations have not been seriously affected by the fighting and are largely intact. However it has been a different story for LTTE's mainstream units; they have undoubtedly suffered at the hands of the army. SLA too has several weapons they have still not used. Units of the Mechanized Infantry Division, which is the latest addition to the elite 53rd division, are yet to enter the battlefield. Newly raised 59th division is undergoing special training in the Weli-Oya sector. In addition to these, 3rd commando regiment too is now being retrained with long range surveillance (LRS) capabilities. In the meantime SLA has started yet another recruitment campaign; the first in year 2008. This time the goal is 15000 new recruits. If this goal is met, it would bring the army's total manpower close to 200000. Latest recruitment drive follows a a successful campaign last year (2007) in which more than 30000 personnel joined the army.

All above statistics point to one direction; heaviest battles of the 4th Eelam War are yet to be fought.

Fighting continues in Parappakandal

Heavy fighting was reported in areas ahead of Parappakandal for the third consecutive day where Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launched a counterattack to regain lost territory in last week's battles. A group of SLA soldiers setting up defenses in newly captured areas came under an LTTE attack at around 1.30PM today (11th). The attack, which involved between 30-40 LTTE cadres, was successfully defended by the army. Two SLA personnel were killed and four more were injured in the incident while 8 LTTE cadres who took part in the counterattack have been killed.

LTTE has been repeatedly launching attacks on troops deployed in this area with the intention of recapturing lost ground. Although these operations have had little success in regaining territory, they have helped slow down (but not halt) the army advance into LTTE held territory in Mannar.

Advances, Assassinations and Beef-ups

Troops advancing ahead of the Forward Defence Line in North Mannar have captured an area of about one square kilometer north of Parappakandal. Around 10 LTTE cadres have been killed in this fight. The SLA is not keen on holding this ground and may maintain a light presence in the area. A counter attack launched by the LTTE using mortars was successfully repulsed with own artillery. Five soldiers were killed in the fight. The LTTE uses mainly mortar shells in this sector due to a shortage of ample artillery shells.

In a separate incident, Special Task Force Commados have killed an LTTE Military Wing Leader in Batticaloa at Eravur today. Police Commandos claim that the suspect, who was being trailed for sometime, had launched a grenade attack at troops lying in ambush prompting a counterfire killing the suspect on the spot. Commandos claim they recovered a Mico Pistol and a Handgrenade from his possession. The suspect was not wearing a suicide capsule or jacket at the time.

Meanwhile the Security Council which met today has decided to increase security to all MPs following the assassination of the Nation Building Minister D.M. Dassanayake yesterday. The Speaker and the Prime Minister have requested the Inspector General of Police to increase security to all MPs despite a contrary Gazette Notification issued several weeks ago. Several Tamil MPs had complained of a drastic reduction in their security, which may have resulted in the January 1st assassination of MP T. Maheswaran. However, Minister Dassanayake's assassination indicates that all MPs, regardless of their race or paygrade, have been equally affected by security lapses.