Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nedumaran, supporters held for supporting Tamil Tigers

Tamil nationalist leader Pazha Nedumaran and at least 164 members of his outfit were held here Saturday for staging a demonstration in support of the Tamil Tigers and against the Sri Lankan and Indian governments.

They were released at night. Nedumaran and members of his Tamil Desiya Iyakkam (Tamil nationalist movement) including a dozen women, had raised slogans in favour of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and for a "Tamil eelam" (Tamil nation).

Police said several "pro-Lankan Tamil groups", including Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK-Dalit Panther) supporters, tried to stage a demonstration at the Memorial Hall near the railway station without permission.

The groups were also protesting the "sale of arms by India to Sri Lanka". They also condemned firing by Sri Lanka's navy on fishermen from Tamil Nadu.

Visiting Sri Lankan Minister for Highways Jayaraj Fernando, meanwhile, maintained that the frequent attacks on Indian fishermen were carried out by the LTTE and not by the Sri Lankan navy.

LTTE attack destroys navy craft: ten missing

Ten Navy personnel were reported missing yesterday morning after one of the Navy’s Fast Attack Craft (FAC) was caught in what is believed to be an LTTE sea mine explosion off Nayaru, Mullaitivu, a Navy spokesman said. He said six sailors were rescued and a search operation was going on for the missing sailors.

The spokesman said this was the first time a navy craft was hit by such a sea mine explosion though such undersea mines had been detected earlier off Mullaitivu. However the LTTE claimed that it had mounted a suicide attack on the Navy’s Dvora killing 14 sailors and losing three Black Sea Tigers in the attack. But, the Navy disputed the LTTE version. (See Situation Report by Iqbal Athas on Page 5 for more details.)

Meanwhile heavy clashes erupted between the Army and the LTTE in Pirmanalankulam in the Mannar district. The military said they killed 15 LTTE cadres and lost two soldiers while capturing one square kilometre in the area. At least 11 soldiers were also injured. Meanwhile heavy clashes erupted between the Army and the LTTE in areas southeast of Adampan, Mannar.

A military spokesman said last night 22 LTTE cadres and four soldiers were killed in the clashes. At least 26 LTTE cadres and 16 soldiers were also injured in the clahses, he said. He said the troops overran eight LTTE bunker defences in the area.

A multi-pronged assault on LTTE territory was launched at 4.45 a.m. yesterday morning with the advancing troops directing heavy artillery and mortar fire at LTTE positions, the military spokesman said. He said LTTE cadres had run back to their defence lines in the Wanni. Reports from the Nagarkovil area last night said heavy fighting was taking place in the area with both sides firing heavy artillery.

Earlier in the day, the Defence Ministry said seven LTTE cadres were killed in clashes with the troops in the Muhamalai and Nagarkoivl areas. The security forces suffered no casualties, the ministry said.

FAC under sea mine attack

A locally built Fast Attack Craft (FAC) of the Navy came under a sea mine attack off Kokilai in the North-Eastern waters around 2.25 a.m. yesterday, Navy spokesperson Commander D. K. P. Dassanayake said.

Commander Dassanayake told the Sunday Observer that the Fast Attack Craft was caught in a LTTE sea mine while it was engaged in a routine sea patrol along with another FAC off Kokilai in the North-Eastern waters around 2.25 a.m. yesterday.

"The second FAC which was in the vicinity rushed to the scene and rescued six sailors including the skipper of the vessel when the explosion occurred. Sixteen sailors were on board at the time the FAC came under attack.

A search for the other ten sailors is being carried out by Navy vessels," Commander Dassanayake said.

Locally built fast Attack Craft caught in an explosion

One locally built fast Attack craft out the two on routine patrol off Nayaru caught in an explosion in the wee hours today early morning around 2.00am, Sri Lanka Navy sources said.

According to the Navy, “the boat being caught in the explosion started to take in water making it difficult for the crew to manoeuvre it to safe area. The impending consequence was unavoidable peril leaving the crew with no alternative other than abandoning the craft. Then they got onto life rafts and started drifting. Six members of the crew have thereafter been rescued by other boats. A search operation is still underway.”

It is suspected that LTTE had unscrupulously laid sea mines in a bid of avenge due repeated losses in the recent past.

Meanwhile, fleeing from un-liberated area in Vedithalthievu, a family of five members consisting of 35 years old father, 32 years old mother, 12 years old eldest son, 05 year old son and the 01 year old youngest son sought refuge of the Navy by arriving at the Fishing Marshalling point at Pallimunai in Mannar, around 7.00 AM today (22Mrach), according to Navy sources.

The family, in desperate hopes of living condition in the un-cleared areas due to atrocities perpetrated by LTTE cadres and forced conscription, arrived on locally made boat known as Wallam fitted with 9.9 horse power outboard motor, even risking their lives.




Last week Sayant Khongton locked up his small grocery store for the last time. An unknown man on a motorcycle gunned down Khongton, who was also a local police officer, as he walked out the front door of his shop in the southern Thai town of Yala. He became the latest victim in a shadowy six-week campaign of murderous attacks against soldiers, police officers and other symbols of authority in Thailand's underdeveloped, Muslim-dominated south. No one seems to know who's behind it. "Take your pick," says one police intelligence official. "Disgruntled Muslims, separatists, foreign Islamic terrorists--you could make a case against any of them."

Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's uber-confident prime minister, took office three years ago promising to resolve decades of anger and perceived injustice among the south's 1.8 million Muslims within his first three months in office. But since the violence erupted on Jan. 4, when dozens of gunmen simultaneously attacked a military camp and torched three police posts and 17 local schools in Narathiwat province, it's clear the situation in the south has gone from bad to worse. Not only have the attacks on police and military units continued, but there now appear to be retribution killings of Muslims as well. And Thaksin's heavy-handed pursuit of the perpetrators has many southerners feeling like targets.

Within hours of the Jan. 4 attacks, parts of Narathiwat and the majority-Muslim provinces of Yala and Pattani were under martial law. Thousands of Army soldiers and special forces have poured into the region. Authorities have arrested Muslim clerics on suspicion of murder, while soldiers have raided Islamic schools looking for weapons and suspects.

Thai intelligence sources say that a separatist group--or groups--numbering no more than a few hundred people is probably responsible for the death and destruction, which has claimed at least 15 lives. Clearly the Muslim community could be a vital ally in Bangkok's hunt for the militants. But so far all Thaksin's dragnet seems to be doing is alienating them. "Could going into [Islamic] schools with [trained] dogs, not taking off your shoes and arresting teachers be counterproductive?" one Western diplomat asks rhetorically. "Yes."

It's no surprise that Thailand's southern Muslims view the government's troops with some resentment. The Muslim community believes that it has been neglected for decades by a succession of Thai governments, which at most have taken a half-hearted interest in the southern provinces' economic development. The monthly household income in Narathiwat is half the national average and infant mortality rates in the three southern provinces are as much as 40 percent higher than the rest of the country's. "Without real human-resource development, these people will not have real opportunities," says Surin Pitsuwan, a former foreign minister and prominent Muslim figure. "They have to feel they belong."

If anything, the military's brute force may be fueling sympathy for the militants. Instead of denouncing the attacks on soldiers, Muslim leaders are decrying Bangkok's jackboot tactics. They also claim that the Thai government bears responsibility for the spate of retribution murders and kidnappings of Muslims--crimes that authorities allegedly aren't pursuing with equal vigor. "The local people are living in fear," says Nimur Makache, deputy head of the Islamic Yala Council. Their anger runs so deep that last week the Yala council, as well as its sister Islamic committees in Pattani and Narathiwat, temporarily broke off communication with the central government. "[The government] needs to be very careful," warns Pitsuwan.

But Thaksin, who took direct control over the southern operations from his deputy last week, must also move quickly. Thai intelligence sources say that both homegrown and foreign terrorist groups have seriously stepped up their recruitment of young Thais. Their pitch: it's far more honorable to work toward the creation of a Muslim state than to be loyal to a government that never cared for you in the first place. In response, the Thai Army is considering running a mandatory "patriotic youth" program for young Muslim men to promote nationalism. "We respect Islam," says Lt. Gen. Jhumpol Munmhy, director of the National Intelligence Agency, "but we must say to them that... you can't think about separatism." It won't matter what the message is, though, if the audience doesn't trust the messenger.


A move on Pooneryn? Assault from the sea?

Pooneryn defence complex until November 1993 overlooked the Jaffna/Kilaly lagoon and proved to be the nemesis for Tamil Tigers' free movement/logistics activities. It also proved to be a hindrance for Tamil Tiger radio traffic between Wanni mainland and the Jaffna peninsula which, barring the PALAY/KKS HSZ, was under complete control of the Tamil Tigers. This was the primary reason for Operation Thavalai (frog) to take place to overwhelm this isolated defence complex. The secondary reason was to use the same T-59I 130mm howitzers the SLA used to shell the Tamil Tiger dominated Jaffna peninsula, for their own targets, i.e PALALY/KKS HSZ and any other target that falls within in its range spectrum.

Since the fall of the base the Tamil Tigers have put this sector to good use. The POONERYN sector has been used as a crucial launching pad for its sea tigers during its many assaults on Jaffna islets and during its failed Jaffna offensive of 2006. It is also being used as pointed out above to disrupt air traffic of PALAY base and for possible decapitation strikes against SLA top brass.

Out of these, intermittent shelling disrupting the vital air bridge and possible decapitation strikes against military top rungs are the main concerns springing from this sector for the SLA. There is much debate over over how to neutralise the howitzers in this sector especially among the lay public.

The first option is to use air recon and vector in the Kfir/MIG27 for air interdiction. During the Tamil Tigers' failed 2006 Jaffna offensive, heavy 130mm barrages were directed at the PALAY and KKS bases to cut off the air and naval bridge linking the Jaffna peninsula to the Southern mainland. During this period an AN32B transporter was used as bait to lure the Tamil Tigers to fire the two 130mm howitzers positioned at K-point while Beech B200T SIGINT was on a recon mission loitering above. Soon as the firing began the Beech picked up the heat signature through its FLIR sensors. Two Kfirs were scrambled on the 19th of August 2006 and successfully destroyed the two howitzers. Since this strike the Tamil Tigers have used their remaining howitzers sparingly and intermittently using a network of underground bunkers/tunnels to avoid detection. This is quite a similar tactic employed by Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi's Japanese during its siege of Iwo Jima during WWII. It was Iwo Jima that Japanese heavy artillery were concealed in massive chambers reinforced by steel doors built inside Mount Suribachi, to keep off projectiles from American bombardment.

The second option is to occupy the land and push back/capture the howitzers putting PALAY /KKS beyond its 27Km range. With troops currently operating in and around the Mannar rice bowl 54Kms South, the sole option for occupying the land is to insert troops in via the sea or air. With the POONERYN sector's geography being a mirror of the MUHAMALE/NAGARKOVIL/PALLAI sector the same reasons I explained earlier on should SLA make a move on EPS applies here.

The land again is open and barren with little or no cover for any troops that would have landed in attempting to secure the beach head. The open stretch of land further necessitates the need for the armoured cavalry, which again needs to be brought in from mechanized landers. For it to be successful at least 100 such units are necessary and the deployment has to be in real quick time (Bear in mind that landing crafts of SLN can achieve only a max of 20 knots) to drive home the element of surprise and to ensure the beach head remains out of Tamil Tiger mortar range. Also worth to note is that the Tamil Tigers had positioned cadres loyal to its former political head specifically to defend this sector. Which means one should expect significant amount of defence along this coast making the need for armour ever more important since it involves breaking a fortified line.

However, what can be done is to reduce the defence in depth the Tamil Tigers possess in this sector. A small example:

The independent brigade led by late Brigadier (then Colonel) Percy Fernando landing at the Eastern coast of Jaffna to capture the jetty during Riviresa II. This landing took place while 532 brigade was moving from the ground towards Jaffna East and Air Mobile brigade had landed to secure the Jaffna fort. In this instance the Tamil Tigers were deprived the defence in depth for the simple fact that their defences was thinned out and just weren’t able to muster any anti-amphibious defences.

It is very easy to fall into the trap when planning an assault from sea. It is not just a case of getting troops to a coastal belt but also getting the troops to cross the shoreline and enter the hinterland. It is no good performing an assault via sea merely based on maritime supremacy. You need to break out and achieve the overall objective that led to the assault in the first place.

The battle planners must be 100% certain why the landing is being undertaken and what the immediate aims are. They must know what troops will face, not just enemy's strengths and possible reinforcements, but also the terrain of the target area and local factors such as tides, beach conditions and mud flats which might impact on the landings. The importance of such intelligence was magnified during the successful landing of Incheon during the Korean war when "Trudy Jackson" led by Eugene Clark relayed detailed intelligence on enemy defences, sea tide ranges, whether the beach could hold assault vehicles back to General Macarthur. On the other end stands the battle of Dieppe where the lack of intelligence led to the allied armour being stuck on the soft pebbled beach.

After having sufficient intelligence the landing takes place followed by the lodgement phase to secure the beach head for swift reinforcements and supplies.

Once the intelligence is in place they must consider the approach to the target beach head. The sea crossing could be just a few miles from surrounding islets or all the way from KKS with full naval supremacy in place. Prior to the landing the enemy defence must be softened up and breached. Troops must have the right equipment to proceed from sea to land while under fire. Subsequent to the landing lodgement phase begins to secure the beach head against counter attack and to ensure vital reinforcements and supplies start flowing swiftly and smoothly. Finally the troops must break out from the beach head and begin the next stage of the overall battleplan. It is critical to remember that assault from sea is rarely a battleplan just in itself. It is intended to be part of a larger military campaign.

Soon after lodgement troops need to break out to move to the next stage of the battleplan to avoid being pinned down.

To conclude, the failed operation Thrivida Pahara to relieve a besieged MULATIVU base in July 1996 can be brought up to show the importance of achieving the aforementioned objectives during a coastal assault battleplan. A coastal assault was the only way to reinforce the besieged base since it lies in close proximity to the shoreline. Special forces were airlifted from Trincomalee under the leadership of Lt. Col Fazly Laphir to secure a suitable beach head for troops that were just dispatched from KKS. These troops were also carrying vital supplies and were 20 miles away from the target shoreline. Due to heavy guerilla resistance the Special forces team were forced to make a landing 5Km South of MULATIVU at ALAMPIL. From there the team had to track North amidst heavy resistance. The all important naval supremacy for the reinforcing troops failed to exist due to Tamil Tiger sea wing and its homicide wing. One of the homicide boats managed to ram itself against the Shanghai class FGB SLNS Ranaviru killing 36 sailors on board. Due to heavy resistance the naval task force managed their landing only 3 days later and reached the base 7 days later since the raid, which by then the time frame to achieve the overall objective - relieving the siege on MULATIVU with vital supplies - had long gone.

Like General Macarthur General Holland Smith, and Lt. Gen Kobbekaduwa (Operation Balavegaya), get the tricky coastal assault right and you secure a stepping stone to ultimate victory. Get it wrong and you achieve massive loss of life, political and military disaster.

This is by no means to say the Pooneryn sector is not earmarked. The A32 is a very good prospect and is ideal as a MSR from ILLUPAIKADUWAI, POONERYN to Jaffna across the Sangupiddy ferry till the A9 is liberated from OMANTHAI to MUHAMALE. Unlike the A9 the A32 route needs to be defended from only one flank (East), which is a major advantage.

Only time will tell...