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Troops determined to complete mission to liberate North

Army undaunted; heavy fighting in Muhamalai:

The Forward Defence Line from Kilaly to Nagar Kovil in the isthmus of the Jaffna peninsula has always been a hot topic when the troops and the LTTE clash since the ground that links the Jaffna peninsula has seen vital battles in the two and half decades long history of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The battles that have erupted in this vital stretch of land has always become deadly for both parties since the crossing of this open terrain to advance the defences of either party has always ended inflicting high casualty rates.

Though the LTTE failed in all their endeavours to infiltrate the Security Forces Defences they had not given up the desire to dominate this land.

It has not moved away from this strategy despite losing their first and second defence lines in the Jaffna in their attempt to overrun the Jaffna peninsula in a 72-hour operation on August 11, 2006 and subsequent attack by the Security Forces on their defences.

Since then the Security Forces took the upper hand in the Jaffna FDLs continuously disturbing the LTTE in their attempt to strengthen their defences by constructing bunkers.

The FDLs in the Jaffna peninsula once again became a hot topic on Wednesday as fierce battle erupted in the FDLs in the wee hours. It was amidst intelligence reports that the Tigers were preparing for a major assault on the Jaffna FDLs the troops prepared themselves to face any situation in Jaffna.

Troops operating at the Muhamalai FDL got the first indication about the Tiger plans on Monday evening when one of their Armed Personnel carriers which was located in Muhamalai was hit by Tiger artillery fire. The artillery round had hit the hull of the APC damaging it fully. Three soldiers were also injured due to the Tiger fire. It is believed that Tigers had fired one of their RCL guns which can make burst effect.

The following morning Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka made a visit to Jaffna Security Forces Headquarters to observe the ground situation in the Jaffna FDLs and gave instructions to prepare for any emergency situation in Jaffna and to thwart Tiger plans to infiltrate Security Forces defences.

Just 14 hours after Army Commanders visit to Jaffna, the FDLs in Muhamalai and Kilali came under Tiger artillery and mortar fire. The troops of the 53 Division under the command of the Brigadier Samantha Suriyabandara and 55 Division under the command of Brigadier Kamal Gunaratne were given instructions to neutralise the Tiger threat ahead of the FDLs.

Their intention was to push the Tiger cadres from their current FDL and capture their second Line.

It was at 2 a.m. troops went ahead from Kilali, Muhamalai and Kadolana area to reach the Tiger FDL to neutralise the Tiger threat.

The 55 Division under the command of Brigadier Kamal Gunaratne advanced from the North of A-9 road and 53 Division under the Command of Brigadier Samantha Suriyabandara advanced from south of A-9 road. Their task was to reach the Tiger FDL simultaneously and launch a major assault on the Tiger FDL.

They had to brave the mine fields, booby traps and artillery and rains of artillery and mortar fire directed at them. However, it is learnt that the troops of the 53 Division, the prime offensive Division equipped elite Army Commandos have been entrusted with the task of advancing to the Tiger defence line from Kilaly to A-9 road which is in the South of A-9 road.

The task of the 55 Division was to reach the Tiger FDL from Muhamalai to Kadolana. Both Divisions had to face severe resistance from the LTTE. They had come across a large number of booby traps set by the Tigers to thwart any Security Forces advance.

Many of the troops had sustained injuries in their initial bid due to the large number of booby traps thus delaying the process of advancing towards the Tiger first line which was the original second FDL of the LTTE after the fall of the first Tiger FDL in October last year.

According to ground troops by 6 a.m. there had been only one casualty. By 8 a.m. there had been 15 deaths and 15 casualties.

However, the troops of the 55 Division have reached the first line of the LTTE though there was a delay on the part of the 53 Division to reach the target. As the troops reached the first line of the LTTE, the LTTE directed barrages of artillery and mortar towards the advancing troops.

Amidst heavy artillery and mortar fire of the LTTE troops were able to capture the first defence line of the LTTE pushing them to their second line.

The Security Forces too took MBRL shoots towards Tiger gun positions located in the Soranpattu in the south of Palai thus aiming at the supply routes of the LTTE to prevent Tiger reinforcements arriving there.

The fighter jets of the SLAF and MI 24 gunship helicopters gave close air cover for the ground troops by targeting the Tiger gun positions in Soranpattu. With the air support and artillery support troops were able to capture the first Defence line and launch a major assault on their second line too.

The assault on the Tiger FDLs was a massive one since it was eight kilometres from Kilali to Kadolana area in the isthmus of the Jaffna peninsula. The LTTE was able to take the targets accurately since they have vacated their third line after registering artillery and mortar onto the Tiger FDL which was dominated by the troops.

According to ground troops they have advanced more than 600 metres ahead of the original defences in Muhamalai by noon on Wednesday amidst fierce resistance from the LTTE and capturing the third defence line of the LTTE.

Troops have reached the Tiger FDL by 11 am and it was between 12 noon to 1 pm the fierce battle erupted with rains of artillery and mortar fell onto the Tiger FDL dominated by the troops. Though the casualties were relatively low till 11 a.m. the number of casualties suddenly increased between 12 noon to 1 p.m. as the LTTE was firing directly onto Tiger trenches which were dominated by the troops.

Since the number of casualties increased on the part of the Security Forces at 12.30 pm the field commanders decided to withdraw the troops from the second line of the Tiger FDL into the first line.

The Field Commanders were of the view that it was a futile attempt to hold that ground with a large number of casualties on the part of the Security Forces.

It was at this stage some soldiers went missing when the troops were withdrawing from the Tiger second defence line to the first line. Troops could not recover the bodies of the soldiers due to heavy mortar and artillery fire.

It has been witnessed that the LTTE had made use of maximum firepower during this confrontation even using the locally made mortars towards the troops.

According to Security sources they had used 82 artillery and mortar locations to launch this attack on the Security Forces who had advanced into the Tiger territory capturing an eight Km long stretch after advancing 500 metres into the Tiger territory.

Now the LTTE has lost their first defence line to the Security Forces. Originally it was the second line of the LTTE since troops were able to capture their first original line in October last year after their attempt to capture Jaffna peninsula in August 2006. It was a clear indication that they too were badly affected by the Security Forces MBRL, artillery and mortar fire directed at them.

Initially it had been reported that 50 per cent of the Tiger cadres operating in the Tiger FDLs perished in the fierce battle.

Later it had been confirmed that the 149 Tiger cadres have been killed in the battle and they have declared names of 81 Tiger cadres killed by yesterday noon.

However, the pro-LTTE Tamilnet website highlighted the casualty figure of the Security Forces to cover up their loses.

The Security Forces yesterday declared that 43 soldiers were killed and 33 others were Missing in Action during this battle. According to the Army 169 soldiers have sustained injuries. Out of this 126 have been admitted to hospitals.

The LTTE declared that they had taken 30 bodies of the soldiers killed during the battle to Kilinochchi and declared names of some of the soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice. Therefore, the number of deaths will shoot up to 73.

As usual there had been speculations about the number of deaths and casualty figures and attempts are being made to highlight this operation as major set back to the Security Forces.

Of course, the number of deaths and casualties were relatively high when compared to other military operations.

It was a coincidence that the troops had to counter this LTTE attempt to infiltrate the Jaffna FDLs, exactly eight years after the Elephant Pass debacle in which the Security Forces had to withdraw from Elephant Pass to Pallai losing more than 1,000 troops in 2000.

There may be many attempts to compare this counter attack on the LTTE with the Elephant Pass debacle.

But it will be a ridiculous attempt since our troops have been able to capture a vital territory from the LTTE clutches during this operation without losing an inch of land to the LTTE.

Of course we had lost young blood the nation who are ready to make their supreme sacrifice on behalf of a worthy cause. Even in the case of the Sri Lanka Army there had been lapses during this counter offensive.

But Security Forces will have to do continue its bid to liberate Wanni from the clutches of the LTTE.

So this should be considered as a giant leap forward towards achieving the task of liberating the entire country from the LTTE especially the North.

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