The military thrust against the LTTE is now focused on the guerrillas final stronghold of Puthukkudiyiruppu in Mullaitivu with fierce fighting erupting between government troops and the LTTE.
After the fall of the last Sea Tiger base at Chalai on Wednesday night, the final blow to the LTTE’s maritime network, all military divisions are heading towards Puthukkudiyiruppu from all directions.
Since Wednesday, the Army’s 57 division began bombarding LTTE strategic points in Puthukkudiyiruppu from the West of the region while the 58 division kept firing mortars and artillery from the north of Puthukkudyiruppu.
On Friday Sri Lanka Air Force K'Fir and F-7 fighter jets launched several precision air strikes at a high profile LTTE hideout located one km northeast of the Puthukkudyiruppu junction in support of the ground troops. The air strikes took place at1.45 p.m. and 4.45 p.m.
|The bund built by the LTTE along the Chundikkulam lagoon. Pix courtesy Army media
On Thursday morning the Air Force jets raided an LTTE command centre located 1.5 km north of Puthukkudiyiruppu.
The LTTE had resisted the ground attacks and retaliated. According to military sources in the area, the LTTE had reportedly sent several child soldiers strapped with explosives to their bodies towards the area where the military was carrying out operations.
Last Sunday morning, columns of LTTE cadres infiltrated the defence line of the Army that was operating South of Puthukkudiyiruppu and West of the Nanthikadal lagoon with the intention of pushing the troops out of Puthukkudiyiruppu South .
According to military intelligence reports LTTE leaders including Soosai, Bhanu, Theepan and Swarnam were heard on communication sets instructing nearly 200 cadres who had infiltrated the Army defence located West of Nanthikadal lagoon.
The LTTE after infiltrating had attacked a number of Army vehicles operating South of Puthukkudiyiruppu resulting in troops suffering few casualties. The LTTE had also attacked some troop positions of the 593 Brigade located West of Nanthikadal lagoon.
Many soldiers wounded in the fighting were rushed to the Oddusudan area and were later transferred to Vavuniya Hospital.
As intense fighting continued till the wee hours of Monday in Puthukkudiyiruppu South the Air Mobile Brigade which was operating under the 53 Division under the command of Brigadier Kamal Gunaratne was rushed there to repulse enemy fire. The Sunday Times learns that a few soldiers engaged in the fighting had gone missing but eventually managed to regroup. Due to the intense fighting on Sunday and Monday, further measures were taken to strengthen the defence of the 59 Division and the Task Force 4 which were operating from Puthukkud-iyiruppu South.
In a bid to cause collateral damage to the troops as the LTTE infiltration plan went awry, the LTTE commanders ordered two of their suicide cadres to drive an explosive-laden cab and a truck into the troop defence line South of Puthukkudiyiruppu on Tuesday evening. The two vehicles exploded after reaching the defence line.
In the meantime the military received valuable intelligence regarding the declining morale of the guerrillas with senior LTTE leaders attempting to abandon the outfit. This came in the light of the military’s capture of Chalai, one of the most strategic Sea Tiger bases in the North Eastern coastal belt.
According to intelligence reports a senior member of the Sea Tiger wing, who was a self styled ‘Lt Colonel’ had been captured and brought before the LTTE leadership when he had attempted to escape by boat to India a few weeks back, from the Mullaitivu coast . Since then there were no reports of his whereabouts.
A senior member of the Sea Tiger wing who is under military custody has confessed that a few senior Sea Tiger wing members had abandoned the outfit while some others who were caught by the guerrillas attempting to escape had either been detained or killed.
Last Sunday, troops from the 4th Gemunu Watch of the 552 brigade started operations to capture Chalai. After crossing the Chundikkulam lagoon the troops used multi barrel rocket launchers, artillery guns and mortars targeting a bund that had been built by the LTTE. The terrain was heavily mined resulting in one of the soldiers being killed.It was reported that there was heavy resistance from the LTTE who continuously fired at the troops using 12.7 mm guns, 81 mm mortars and 30 mm canon guns, which are usually fixed to Sea Tiger attack craft. This time these guns were mounted on tractors.
By Wednesday, when the troops broke through the final defence line of the LTTE at Chalai a teenage female suicide cadre had jumped in front of the troops and exploded herself which resulted in one soldier being injured. After intense battles with the LTTE, the 55 Division gained the upper hand.
The LTTE suffered yet another major blow with the deaths of LTTE Sea Tiger leader Vinayagam alias Mike 4, Pagalavan, Qader, Sinnakannan and Annavelan.
Vinayagam was the third in command of the Sea Tiger wing and oversaw the activities of the Sea Tiger suicide squad and intelligence activity. Vinayagam had been in charge of all Sea Tiger operations directed from the north-western coast before they lost the coastline last year. The LTTE’s loss of Vinayagam and the base in Chalai has crippled the Sea Tiger wing according to the military.
On Friday afternoon, the 57 division captured a building complex in Vishwamadu East which was the headquarters of the “Radha Regiment” which provided LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s personal security.
The LTTE raised the said regiment in 2002 after Radha alias Kanthathiyar was killed in Achchuveli, Jaffna during an offensive in 1994. He was a leading founder member of the LTTE and a close confidant of the LTTE leader.
The LTTE, which is now confined to less than 170 square kilometres will be fighting its final battles to defend its rapidly shrinking terrain. Bloody battles, expected in the following days, would determine the fate of the war that has been raging for nearly a quarter century.