STF ousts the LTTE from Kanchikudichchi Aru
- Hundreds of rebels flee in disarray
- Mined jungle terrain causes loss of limbs, slowed operation
- Will neutralize threat posed by LTTE in district
The Tiger guerrilla bases captured by the Special Task Force (STF) in this week’s operation in the Kanjikudichchi Aru jungles were used as their main base for operating tax collection, training and military operations, according to the STF.
|Photos provided by STF
Seventeen bases that had dominated the Kanchikudichchi Aru area in the Ampara district have now been brought under control of the STF. Combing operations in the surrounding areas are in progress to rid the area of rebel activities.
The operation was code named after the STF motto “Niyathai Jaya” (victory assured). The operation was planned over a 3-month period based on STF intelligence gathered on the well fortified Tiger bases of Kanchikudichchi Aru.
According to STF intelligence reports Kanchikudichchi Aru was considered a vital LTTE stronghold in the Ampara district. Rebels used these bases to train, recruit combatants and store heavy weaponry and equipment.
In the aftermath of the 2002 Norwegian-brokered ceasefire agreement, STF camps in the vicinity of the Kanchikudichchi Aru area had come under attack on many occasions.
The STF revealed that the LTTE had imposed taxes on the farming community in the Akkaraipattu and Pottuvil area. The organisation and had also prohibited paddy cultivation in certain areas claiming these fields posed a security threat to their bases.
STF intelligence reports indicated that LTTE cadres from these camps were involved in the forcible recruitment of children from areas such as Thirukkovil, Sagama and Kolavil.
The reports indicated that the tuition class, comprising 23 children and 2 teachers who were abducted and later released were detained at one of these bases in Kanchikudichchi Aru
Sinhalese who predominate the villages of Siyambalanduwa, Lahugala, Hulannuge, Bakmitiyawa, Pannalgama and Manthottama have been under continuous threat from the rebels. On many occasions these hapless people were forced to make payment to the LTTE.
In a bid to neutralize the threat posed by the LTTE in Ampara, as well as to neutralize its influence in the district, on January 4th, the STF commenced operation “Niyathai Jaya”.
A senior STF officer who wished to remain anonymous, told The Sunday Times that the main obstacle they faced was the heavy mining of the jungle terrain.
“Clearing anti-personnel mines planted by the LTTE was one of the biggest tasks”, according to this source. “Many STF personnel sustained injuries while few lost their limbs during the operation. The operation was slowed down due to the heavy mining of the area, he said. “…However despite the obstacles we faced we managed to push forward towards the LTTE controlled areas,” he said.
Intelligence reports had confirmed that LTTE bases were well fortified with bunkers. All approach routes to these bases had been mined. It was tactical operations and intelligence that resulted to the bases falling to the STF.
The Sunday Times learned that due to limited operations conducted by the STF in the area during the months October to December, certain bases in the Kanchikudichchi Aru had been strategically re-located and their capacity up-graded with the introduction of hi-frequency radio links.
The STF has now gained complete control of the Kanchikudichchi Aru area and in the process completely destroyed the LTTE infrastructure including the 17 bases as well as sub-bases.
It has been learned that each of these bases had been assigned particular tasks.
Some of the main bases were identified as Stanley base, Janak base, Ram base, Paramanandan base, Nalani base, Diana base and the Udayan warehouse facility.
On day one of the operation the STF personnel sealed off all entry and exit points leading to and from the LTTE bases.
Day two saw troops beginning to move forward after establishing four key Forward Operational Bases (FOB). The FOBs surrounded LTTE territory.
By day three and four the STF had moved towards the Kanchikudichchi Aru tank.
While demining was in progress troops stumbled upon an LTTE Mahaveera (great heroes) cemetery which contained 588 tomb stones and 63 graves built in remembrance of fallen combatants.
On January 8, the fifth day into operations, troops captured the Stanley base –the heart of LTTE operations in the area-
The opening shots in this battle were fired by the Sri Lanka Air Force which used Russian built Mi-24 helicopters to destroy particular targets and cause a general panic. The air force attack was followed by an STF team moving in and gaining control of the base.
It is reported that around a hundred rebels who were housed at the base fled towards the dense jungles of Bakmitiyawa in Ampara.
At Stanley base the STF discovered a medical facility which is said to have been built by an INGO named ZOA.
Stanley base is said to have four sub-bases including a training camp and an intelligence facility named Ram base.
STF troops recovered food aid items which they believe could have either donated or plundered from among stocks belonging to particular INGOs.
Abandoned camouflage uniforms in the process of being stitched at Janak base revealed that the camp had been abandoned in a mighty hurry.
A massive haul of explosives was found at Padmananda base. The camp had a garage and a store room for explosives such as C-4.
The base was named to honour LTTE explosive’s expert Padmananda Master. It is said that Padmananda Master escaped prior to the STF capture of the area.
The bases bore the marks of being a centre for illegal activities.
The STF claims that the camp bore the hall marks of being a centre for cultivation and harvesting of Marijuana, illegal felling of valuable timber and smuggling of valuable archaeological items. All bases are said to have been provided with CDMA phones and/or satellite communication facilities.
On the eleventh day of operation (January 14), 5 LTTE child soldiers who had escaped from the rebel camp at Sangamankanda surrendered to the STF.
The five claimed that another group of approximately40 children were biding their time to escape from LTTE cadres who were holding them captive in the jungles of Bakmitiyawa.