Security forces have moved to counter infiltration by Tiger guerrillas outside the theater of conflict, as operations to capture the last strongholds continue.
These plans were made in the light of troops capturing Kilinochchi and laying siege on the final LTTE stronghold of the Mullaitivu district in a multi-pronged military operation.
After the capture of Kilinochchi, the State Intelligence Service (SIS), the government defence establishment’s premier intelligence arm, received vital intelligence about desperate attempts by the LTTE to carryout attacks outside the theater of conflict.
The SIS had learnt that as LTTE-held terrain rapidly came under government control, the Tigers would target civilian, military and non-military strategic targets in an attempt to divert attention from the theater of conflict and prevent or even slow down the momentum of advancing troops.
|Troops moving to the frontline.
Security in Colombo as well as in rural villages that border the liberated areas have been placed on high alert.
Steps taken to tighten the security in many villages that were in close proximity to former Tiger dominated regions, come in the wake of last Saturday’s incident where a group of four Tiger guerillas had infiltrated a village of chena cultivators in Karametiya in Inginiyagala, Ampara and shot and hacked to death 21 civilians , including women and children.
The Police Special Task Force (STF) has launched a search operation in the area while additional Army and Civil Defence Force personnel were deployed to strengthen security in the village.
Security has also been tightened in villages such as Siyambalanduwa, Lahugala, Hulannuge, Bakmitiyawa, Pannalgama and Manthottama , also located in the Ampara district.
It has transpired that the Tiger guerillas had come to carry out the attack from the dense jungles of Bakmitiyawa in Ampara where they had reportedly been hiding since the STF cleared the LTTE’s bases located in Kanchikudichchi Aru in Ampara in January 2007.
The STF operation in Kanchikudichchi Aru which was code named after the STF motto “Niyathai Jaya” (victory assured) managed to gained control of the 17 LTTE bases within a matter of weeks.
Soon after the Tiger guerillas lost their bases in Kanchikudichchi Aru they had retreated to the Bakmithiyawa jungles where security operations are now being conducted.
|Troops inspecting a facility used by the guerrillas
Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakara told The Sunday Times that the military has taken steps to strengthen the security in the villages in Ampara and have also taken measures to prevent any LTTE infiltration.
“LTTE infiltration at this stage of the war is expected, but owing to our intelligence and cordon and search operations we have managed to prevent these infiltrations greatly. At a time they are losing they will try all types of terror tactics to slow down operations in Puthukkudiyiruppu. We estimate there are about 20 Tiger gurrillas in the Bakmitiyawa jungles. Steps have been taken to track them down,” he said.
As a major part of Mullaitivu came under government control and Puthukkudiyiruppu came under siege, a few incidents of a small group of Tiger guerillas infiltrating the Jaffna peninsula have been reported. The military believes that the infiltration is taking place amidst the large influx of civilians coming to the peninsula.
Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka, who had visited the Jaffna peninsula on February 19 assessed the ground situation and met Major General Mendaka Samarasinghe, Commander, Security Forces Headquarters, Jaffna and senior ground commanders of the 51, 52 and 55 Divisions.
A discussion was held at Jaffna headquarters auditorium where Major General Samarasinghe, briefed the visiting Army chief on the overall security situation in the peninsula. Divisional commanders and respective ground commanders also contributed to the discussion and told the Army Commander about arrangements in place to receive the influx of Wanni civilians entering the peninsula.
Lt. General Fonseka emphasized the need to maintain a satisfactory civil status-quo vis-à-vis security measures in the region without leaving any room for the LTTE to infiltrate and cripple normalcy.
The Army Commander’s visit to Jaffna comes in the wake of isolated incidents which were stirred up by the LTTE, affecting parts of the peninsula.
On February 12, two Tiger guerillas posing as civilians shot at troops engaged in a route clearing patrol near the Tirunalveli junction in Jaffna. One of the LTTE gunman died after swallowing a cyanide capsule while the other was shot dead.
Two days after the incident in Tirunalveli, troops managed to thwart an LTTE attempt to destroy a transformer in Awarankal, Achchuweli in Jaffna. A blast was followed by a flurry of small arm fire that was directed at the troops. The two LTTE cadres were later reported to have been shot.
Anti-LTTE political parties that are preparing for the local government elections in Jaffna, have reported that their offices are being watched by Tiger operatives.
These incidents have sent out a clear signal to the government’s defence establishment that the LTTE was attempting to infiltrate and cause pandemonium outside the theater of conflict.
Increasing the number of military intelligence operatives, deploying Special Forces and Commandos as well as establishing new Army, Navy and Air Force units in the North and East are part of the special security plan that has been implemented to stop a resurgence of LTTE activities. Meanwhile, police stations are being setup in the newly liberated areas. A police station has already been setup in Kilinochchi, which fell to government control at the beginning of this year. At least six other police stations are to come up in the re-captured areas.
According to a military official the setting up of these new bases will help them to monitor guerilla activity in liberated areas and prevent the LTTE from regrouping in jungle terrain.
Meanwhile, intense fighting had reportedly taken place in the areas of Ampalavanpokkanai, Puthukkudiyiruppu East, Chalai and Therumurikkandi on Thursday and Friday. The 55, 58, 59 Division troops as well as those of the Task Force -3 and 4 were engaged in clashes with the LTTE.
The 58 Division is now advancing from the north towards Puthukkudiyiruppu east, while the 582 Brigade is advancing towards the east from the Paranthan-Mullaithivu A-35 road. The newly established Task Force 8 is advancing from south to north of Puthukkudiyiruppu.
At present three defence lines have been established to prevent any LTTE infiltration. Troops are now consolidating their positions in the recently captured areas, while mop-up operations are going ahead. The defence lines will ensure that Tigers guerillas do not infiltrate the jungle patches and carryout counter attacks.
Previously it was revealed that around 15 guerrillas broke through the military defences with the objective of capturing the Mullaitivu town area with synchronized attacks launched from all directions from Mullaitivu north.
According to the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), the LTTE had planned to launch its attack to capture Mullaitivu town last Wednesday. It has now transpired that LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had ordered this as top priority in an attempt to boost the depleted moral of LTTE guerillas and gain support of the Tamil diaspora.
In the past few weeks, the LTTE had made several attempts to breach the military defences in Mullaithivu town, but all these attempts were repulsed by the troops resulting in a large number of LTTE cadres being killed.
Last Tuesday morning, troops of the 59 Division operating in the Nanthikadal lagoon and Mullaitivu town area laucnhed a search operation within the area between Nanthikadal lagoon and north of the A-35 road (Paranthan-Mullaitivu Road). This operation was launched following intelligence reports that a group of heavily armed LTTE cadres were planning to overwhelm the military defences.
While the operation was on, Tiger guerillas hiding behind trees had opened fire at troops. The battle lasted for over five hours until the evening. Both sides faced casualties. It has come to light that the LTTE had used thermobaric weapons, which after being fired creates intense heat in the area resulting in the targeted objects being severely burnt.
On Wednesday morning, troops that were engaged in a search and clearing operation confronted two Tiger guerillas. One of them who was a Black Tiger suicide bomber jumped onto a jeep of a senior military officer and blew himself up, but the officer was not in the vehicle . The driver was killed on the spot. The other LTTE cadre who was firing at the troops was later shot dead.
Meanwhile civilians and Tiger guerrillas who have surrendered to the military have revealed that senior LTTE leaders had come out of their hideouts and were seen leading troops from the front.
Tiger Intelligence wing chief Pottu Amman, Sea Tiger leader Soosai and Prabhakaran’s son Charles Anthony were among those reportedly involved in operations.
On Wednesday, when fierce fighting erupted between troops and the LTTE the 58 Division that had intercepted Tiger communications had heard Pottu Amman commanding his troops.
Last week, troops managed to recover a large haul of weapons and a high profile LTTE hideout which even included a swimming pool, in Puthukkudiyiruppu.
The number of civilians entering the government controlled areas has reduced due to the LTTE entrapping the 70,000 civilians who are still in rebel-controlled territory. It is reported that the LTTE is hurriedly training these civilians so as to use them as their infantry. Many of the civilians who have escaped have complained that they were being forcibly recruited.
Last Tuesday the government rejected the LTTE’s offer of a ceasefire. The government’s stance was that they would only agree to a ceasefire if the LTTE laid down arms and surrendered. However, the rebels are not showing any signs of laying down arms as they continue to hold on to their rapidly dwindling terrain that is less than 58 square kilometres, the military says.