Ground troops brave terrorists’ last-gasp attacks
The three year long effort by the Sri Lankan Security Forces to
eradicate LTTE terrorism has reached its climax as troops engaged in the
final battle to rescue the last batch of civilians kept hostage by the
Tiger terrorists entered into its most crucial stages as of yesterday
(May 14, 2009) with troops operating in a hugging distance to the area
where thousands of civilians were living under LTTE detention.
Troops of the 58 Division reached closer to Fara III, the
Jordanian vessel grounded in the Mullaitivu seas after
advancing from the Northern edge of the Safe Zone. A view of
the ship from the Mullaitivu side. Pictures by Rukmal Gamage
It was not only a battle between the Security Forces and the Tiger
terrorists but also a battle between the truth and the false as
Government had to wage a parallel war to combat the disinformation
campaign orchestrated by the LTTE backed media organizations in their
last minute bid to stop the final push on Tiger leader Velupillai
If ground troops faced its toughest battle with the LTTE the
Government also had to face the toughest battle against the
disinformation campaign and to disseminate the correct version on the
Sri Lankan situation whilst many international organizations including
the United Nations started to explain the situation inside the safe zone
as a ‘blood bath’ depending on false information disseminated by the
pro-LTTE media machineries.
It was obvious that the LTTE was engaged in this strong
disinformation campaign to tarnish the image of the Sri Lankan
Government and the Security Forces as they saw the end of their
existence in the Sri Lankan soil. So they want to end the Security
Forces effort to liberate the remaining civilians in a bloodbath killing
their own Tamil people to reach their ulterior motive.
The most unfortunate thing was that even some international media who
are keenly observing the Sri Lankan situation, have become a part and
parcel of this disinformation campaign, filing exaggerated news reports
without having verified information about the plight of the civilians
inside the safe zone.
Commanding the troops for the final battle
Brigadier Shavendra Silva
Brigadier Prasanna Silva
What the international media does not understand is that the LTTE
media machinery is so powerful even to mislead the international
community providing the journalist with hot news which had never
happened in reality through their proxies, making them a tool of their
So in a scenario in which the international media is going after most
demanded stories, stories that sell, it is difficult to counter this
disinformation campaign, but the Government managed to counter the
disinformation campaign carried out by the LTTE to minimize the damage
on the Sri Lankan Government and the Security Forces.
It was under these circumstances, the Government managed to entertain
the support of the UN Security Council amidst various pressures by US,
UK, France to have formal sessions on Sri Lankan situation.
Finally the UN Security Council ended up their informal sessions on
Sri Lankan situation issuing a nine paragraph statement on the Sri
Lankan situation on May 13.
Whilst expressing grave concern about the situation in Sri Lanka the
UN Security Council members in the second paragraph of their statement
states that the members of the Security Council strongly condemn the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for its acts of terrorism over
many years, and for its continued use of civilians as human shields, and
acknowledge the legitimate right of the Government of Sri Lanka to
Waduvakal causeway across the Nanthikadal lagoon in the
North of Mullaitivu
The members of the Security Council demand that the LTTE lay down its
arms and allow the tens of thousands of civilians still in the conflict
zone to leave.
Countries like Japan, China, Russia, Libya and Vietnam had reportedly
backed the Sri Lankan Government effort to eradicate LTTE terrorism
whilst Western nations continued to pressurize the Government to have a
pause in its military operations to allow the civilians to move out of
the conflict zone.
Once again it was not a question of having a pause in firing but an
issue that has to be responded by the LTTE alone as the Security Forces
have never stopped civilians coming out of the safe zone. They have
expressed their consent and agreement over and over again to stop firing
if any of these international players can take a guarantee from the LTTE
that they would allow the civilians to move out of the conflict zone
according to their wish.
So once again it become an issue relating to the LTTE but not to the
Sri Lankan Government as it is engaged in a process of the rescuing the
civilians from the grip of the LTTE whilst eradicating LTTE terrorism.
It is under these circumstances the Security Forces, especially the
Sri Lanka Army are engaged in their final battle against the LTTE in a
tiny strip of land in the North of Mullaitivu to rescue the remaining
civilians from the LTTE.
At the beginning of this week the Sri Lanka Army has opened up a new
front to reach the final terrain under the LTTE with 59 Division
starting their offensive operation from Vaddawakkal causeway area in the
immediate North of Mullaitivu town under the command of Brigadier
Brigadier Prasanna Silva, the General Officer Command of the 55
Division was sent to overlook the operational matters of the 59 Division
which was under the command of Major General Nandana Udawatta.
The 59 Division was not engaged in offensive operations after the
capture of the Mullaitivu town and continued their defensive role until
they commenced operations last week to advance in a South to North
direction towards the newly demarcated Safe Zone.
However, with the changes that took place with the appointing of
Major General Nandana Udawatta as the Overall Operations Command of
Anuradhapura with the due retirement of Major General Sanath Karunaratne,
Brigadier Prasanna Silva has been appointed as the Acting GOC of the 59
Division. However, Brigadier Chagie Gallage who is now overlooking the
command of the 55 Division temporarily is due to take over the command
of 59 Division very soon.
No Fire Zone
However, it was under the command of Brigadier Prasanna Silva, the 6
Sri Lankan Light Infantry battalion commanded by Major Nandana Yahampath,
was able to cross the Nanthikdal lagoon in the isthmus of the Mullaitivu
town, by last Friday and to capture a stretch of LTTE earth bund from
the beach front.
The 59 Division has to advance nearly 2 Km to reach the southern edge
of the No Fire Zone and they had to face stiff resistance from the LTTE
as the troops were entering a most secured terrain under LTTE control.
At the initial stages the 59 Division troops faced stiff resistance
from the LTTE as the biggest resistance came from the heavy weapons they
have located inside the Jordanian merchant vessel Fara III which has
been grounded closer to Mullaitvu shores few years back.
The capture of the Tiger earth bund in the southern edge by the
ground troops, increased the threat on the LTTE by two fold as they
earlier had to face the troops only from the Northern front.
Now the LTTE had to concentrate on two Northern and Southern fronts
and to commit its depleting strength into two fronts, making it much
more difficult for them to defend the last terrain.
As troops of the 593 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Sujeewa
Senerath Yapa were consolidating their positions in the newly captured
Tiger earth bund in the beach front, the LTTE launched a massive counter
attack on Tuesday night to recapture the lost terrain.
The initial attack came from suicide boats which rammed into bunkers
manned by the 6 Sri Lanka Light Infantry battalion from the lagoon
front. The suicide boat that rammed into the bunker was larger than the
usual suicide boats of the LTTE, and was fitted with 500 HP outboard
mortars so that it can reach the ground once they land in the shore.
According to ground troops there had been three other suicide boats
which had attempted to reach the Security Forces, and one was fired upon
by the troops and another was disabled after killing the operator.
Troops also have observed that another suicide boat turned away once two
suicide boats were destroyed by the troops.
As the LTTE attempt to breach the Security Forces defences in the
beach and lagoon front was effectively foiled by the ground troops the
LTTE made another attempt from the ground to breach and recapture the
earth bund. They have used even a 122 mm artillery gun directly
destroying the bunkers manned by the troops.
Fierce fighting erupted as 150 to 200 Tiger cadres attempted to
breach the 59 Division Forward Defence Line close to Wadduvakkal
causeway. Scores of Tiger cadres were believed to have been killed
during this confrontation as troops observed the bodies of Tiger cadres
strewn ahead of their defences.
The troops attached to the 6 Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI)
battalion, 11 Gemunu Watch (GW) battalion, 12 SLLI battalion and two
squadrons of the 4 Special Forces battalion attached to 593 Brigade
commanded by Lt. Colonel Sujeewa Senerath Yapa fought this battle to
defend the captured territory. As the LTTE made desperate attempts to
stop the troops reaching the southern edge of the No Fire Zone, the 58
Division under the command of Brigadier Shavendra Silva and 53 Division
under the command of Major General Kamal Gunaratne also made steady
progress having reached towards the newly demarcated Safe Zone in the
South of Karayanmullivaikkal from the Northern front.
The 11 SLLI battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Kithsiri
Ekanayake, 12 Gajaba Regiment (GR) under the command of Major Saliya
Amunugama and 9 Gemunu Watch battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel
Lal Chandrasiri advanced further into the Safe Zone located in the East
of A-35 road.
As ground troops advanced into the Safe Zone after capturing the last
earth bund in the northern part of the safe zone, LTTE made a desperate
bid to stop them, after directing fire using many heavy weapons. It was
on Wednesday the 9 Gemunu Watch battalion was able to capture a 6 barrel
Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher used against the troops in
As of yesterday the 58 Division has reached towards the Fara III ship
from the beach front and was in the process of completely capturing the
safe zone in the East of A-35 Road.
With this move the LTTE has pushed the civilians further south of the
Safe Zone and nearly 1000 civilians started to flow into 59 Division
area in Mullaitivu crossing the Nanthikadal lagoon. Many of the
civilians had to cross the lagoon using tubes and other floating
instruments as the water level of the lagoon was little high in that
The 574 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Senaka Wijesuriya
was receiving the civilians reaching toward the 59 Division.
According to assessments of the military an exodus of civilians can
be expected on Thursday night or today with the 53 Division reaching
further south of the No Fire Zone once the 58 Division reaches the
Southern edge of the safe zone from the beach front.
The 1 and 6 Gajaba Regiment battalions, 5 GW and 5 Vinajayaba
Infantry Regiment attached to the 53 Division are advancing from the
West of A-35 Road. If troops are able to rescue the remaining civilians
peacefully they are free to engage the LTTE cadres without restricting
the use of their fire power against the LTTE. That was why the LTTE is
making a last minute attempt to prevent civilians fleeing from that
According to the military at least another 30,000 civilians are
trapped inside this safe zone and are due to arrive in Government
controlled areas by Friday morning if the ongoing operations to rescue
them were effective.
However, military intelligence indicate that the LTTE will continue
their battle until the death of its last cadre as there are strong
indications that Tiger leader Velupillai Prabahakaran is still there in
According to intercepted radio communications, there are lots of
disagreements between the ground level cadres and the leaders as many of
the cadres want to surrender to the Security Forces.
The civilians fleeing from the area have divulged that even LTTE
Political Chief and former Police Chief Nadesan has been shot by the
LTTE when he attempted to flee the area mingling with the civilians.
Military intelligence also indicates that the LTTE is still
maintaining 400 to 500 hardcore Tiger cadres with them to continue their
fight till the last inch of land is deprived to them by the Security
But the next few hours will definitely decide how long the Tiger
leader Velupillai Prabhakaran can survive along with the handful number
of leaders in this tiny strip of land in Mullaitivu North as he would be
isolated completely as troops are poised to rescue the remaining
civilians from the LTTE grip as they did it on April 20 recreating world
history of hostage rescue missions.