Last Monday the entire nation celebrated the end of a bloody era as the Sri Lankan government trumpeted victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that had been fighting a separatist war for nearly three decades.
As the news of the Sri Lanka Army closing in on the final stronghold of the LTTE in the Vellamullivaikal area broke, people from all walks of life glued themselves in front of a television or radio. Once the news of the entire island being liberated reached the public, jubilant crowds began to light fireworks and parade the streets while vehicles flying the Sri Lankan flag and tooting horns hit the streets.
Some houses marked this occasion with women from the neighbourhood playing the rabana while in some houses the traditional kiribath (milk rice) was made to mark the end to the bloody era and savour the victory the Sri Lanka military had achieved.
|Jubilant troops celebrate the end of the war
|Scenes after LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s body was found.
Last Monday, the Sri Lanka Army 53, 58 and 59 divisions that led the assault on the final LTTE bastion reported that the LTTE leadership had been wiped out. By Monday, troops had identified the bodies of several prominent Tiger leaders; but were still searching for the body of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Initial reports indicated that the body of Prabhakaran had been severely burnt as he had got caught in a massive explosion in the area while trying to escape in an ambulance.
On Tuesday, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 53 Division Major General Kamal Gunaratne called Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka (since promoted to General) who was at that time attending ceremonial sittings of Parliament where the President was declaring that the fighting had ended. He had called him to convey to his commander that his troops had recovered the body of the LTTE leader.
This news came amidst speculation that the elusive terrorist leader may have escaped from the area. Immediately, several television channels televised live from the newly liberated area of Vellamullivaikkal, the images of the body of Prabhakaran putting an end to speculation that he had escaped.
The events which led to the victory was to unfold last Saturday as the 58 and 59 division troops linked up in the coast of Vellamullivaikkal resulting in the entire northwestern coast coming under the control of the Army.
Troops of the 58 Division moving southwards from Kariyamullivaikkal linked up with 59 Division troops moving northwards from Sarwaruthodam restricting the LTTE guerillas to a small strip of land.
The LTTE attempted to breach the troops' defence lines which were cutoff after the 58 and 59 divisions linked up. Amidst stiff resistance and waves of suicide bombing, the divisions forged ahead. By Saturday evening sounds of massive explosions were heard in the LTTE-dominated enclave which was less than 1.5 square kilometres at that time and was rapidly shrinking.
By last Saturday thousands of civilians had fled towards the military controlled areas from the "no fire zone" which was surrounded by the military. Prabhakaran who was cornered laid the foundation for his escape by engaging in a psy ops to convince the advancing Army that he was no longer inside the area as Tiger guerillas who had surrendered told the troops that their leader had escaped the country before the beach front was cutoff.
The troops were aware of Prabhakaran's plan. As the final batches of civilians arrived by Sunday through the Vadduvakal causeway to the military controlled area, military intelligence (DMI) learnt that the LTTE leader had then made plans to escape towards the Weli Oya jungle.
On Saturday night troops received a monitoring report that the LTTE had launched several boats into the Nanthikadal lagoon. Troops attached to the Task Force 8 who were operating in the western edge of the Nanthikadal lagoon were alerted about a possible attempt by the LTTE to breach the defence lines of the troops attached to Task Force 8.
During the early hours of last Sunday Task Force 8 troops detected the Tiger boats and opened fire at them. The battle lasted for several hours as troops managed to bring the situation under control. A few of the guerillas who survived the Task Force 8 assault managed to infiltrate the western edge of the lagoon.
Tigers who escaped attacked two bunkers and fled towards the Oddusudan jungle. Troops expecting more Tiger infiltration attempts then strengthened their troops around the Nanthikadal lagoon area. The next few waves of Tigers that tried to infiltrate through the lagoon front were foiled by the troops.
It has now transpired that the LTTE operations to break through the troop defence lines in Nanthikadal lagoon front was part of an LTTE operation to clear a pathway for LTTE leaders to escape towards the Weli Oya jungle area. However the LTTE plan had gone awry due to the intense fire power of the troops.
In a subsequent search operation along the lagoon a large number of LTTE bodies were recovered.
Around 11.15 a.m. on Sunday the 53 Division and the 59 Division linked up in the eastern edge of the lagoon further tightening the noose on the LTTE.
As pitched battles raged in the LTTE enclave which was less than 400 square kilometres by Sunday afternoon, two Tiger rebels attacked an ambulance taking two army casualties from Valayarmadam to Puthumatallan south of the causeway at the junction linking the A-35 main road and the Puthumatallan road.
Another ambulance following the first also came under attack but succeeded in escaping. The driver and the two casualties were able to avoid the attack as they fled the area leaving the ambulance behind.
The LTTE had tried to mislead the troops through psychological operations pretending that the Tiger leader who had tried to escape in an ambulance had been burnt to ashes. This was a ruse so that they could easily take him out towards a safer location diverting the attention of the troops, according to army sources.
|Karuna and Daya Master inspecting Prabhakaran’s body
Troops that had monitored the LTTE radio transmissions heard the LTTE saying that Prabhakaran who was inside an ambulance was killed.
By Monday, the LTTE IT Wing leader and elder son of Prabhakaran, Charles Anthony was killed by the troops while trying to flee the area. Troops identified 18 more bodies of senior LTTE cadres including, Bhanu - LTTE military leader, Jeyam- LTTE military leader, B.Nadesan- LTTE political head, S.Pulidevan- Head of LTTE's Peace Secretariat, Ramesh- LTTE special military leader, Ilango- LTTE police chief, Charles Anthony- the eldest son of LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran, Sudharman - aide to LTTE leader's son, Thomas- senior intelligence leader, Luxman - LTTE military leader, Sri Ram- senior Sea Tiger cadre, Isei Aravi - LTTE female military leader, Kapil Amman - LTTE deputy intelligence leader, Ajanthi- female LTTE trainer in charge, Wardha - in charge of LTTE mortars , Pudiyawan- Secretary to LTTE leader and Jenarthan - Special military leader.
By Monday troops recovered over 300 Tiger bodies and many of them were identified by the military intelligence officials. There were many disfigured bodies after being caught in a massive explosion in the area. Although it was announced that LTTE Intelligence Wing leader Pottu Amman's body was recovered, later it was found that it was not him as the body was shorter than that of Pottu Amman.
Last Tuesday around 10.30 a.m. troops found the body of Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. The dog tag bearing 001 and his identity card, personal weapons and belongings were found in his pack.
India had asked the Sri Lankan government to assist them with forensic evidence proving that the body was that of Vellupillai Prabahkaran who was wanted for the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. However, Sri Lanka has promised to provide the death certificate of Prabhakaran to close the Rajiv Gandhi case. Prabhakaran's body was reported to have been cremated on Wednesday in Mullaitivu.
The LTTE that has now been militarily annihilated is only left with its international arm headed by Selvarajah Pathmanadan alias Kumaran Padmanadan (KP) who is on Interpol's most wanted list for trafficking arms. KP who is only second to former KGB operative Victor Bout in trafficking arms is poised to take over the LTTE leadership.
As the chapter on Eelam War IV comes to a close the resettlement of over 200,000 civilians and their political aspirations that have been deprived for nearly three decades must now be addressed.