Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Hamilton, Bermuda / London, UK
War situation update * MAP * - Troops proceed with caution- Bhanu removed from Mannar -
08-01-2008, 05:26 PM
Troops proceed with caution
Bhanu removed from Mannar, Theepan appointed
As soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army gained more control of the areas held by the LTTE in both the Eastern and the Western flanks of the A-9 main road, they have been attentive to the silence and inaction of the Tigers who had not launched a major attack aginst the military so far.
Intelligence officials warned that the military’s quick advance into the rebel held areas and the large scale withdrawal by the Tigers from their main bases was indicative of some secret motive concerning the LTTE’s next step.
With the start of Eelam war IV and after two years, the government forces are of the view that they are now in a position to defeat one of the world’s ruthless terrorist groups.
However, the continuous silence maintained by the LTTE leadership is strange and leads to a belief that some surprise may take place within the next few months. As done on earlier occasions when the army launched major offensives, the LTTE has made tactical withdrawals from their bases with the intention of drawing the troops into unfamiliar territory and attacking later to regain the areas they have lost and in the process cause heavy damage to the military.
But there can be no doubt concerning the losses suffered by the LTTE so far. The LTTE had lost two thirds of its military capability and is also experiencing a shortage of manpower and supplies to launch any major assault on the military.
Intelligence sources however have stated that there could be the possibility of an attack on Jaffna by making an amphibious landing, since the Tigers had not abandoned their objective of capturing the Jaffna peninsula.
The possible amphibious landing would take place somewhere in the Nagar Kovil side since this is the only area the Tigers are still in control in the peninsula. As the LTTE had lost most of the areas in the North Western coast the threat from the Tigers to the Jaffna Islands appear to be minimum.
Other reasons for the continued silence would be to launch a major attack on advancing troops as soon as the military enters the Kilinochchi district. The possible target would be 57 Division operating in the North Western side of the area.
However, it will not be that easy to cause heavy damage to the military as the troops are in a position of strength with the victories gained so far and their morale flying high.
If the western flank of the A-9 road is cleared of the LTTE, the threat of a major attack on the military by the Tigers would be difficult as more than six Divisions of the Army could surround the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts. The next few months would be a crucial period and mark a turning point for both parties.
According to ground troops, the military is ready to withdraw from the newly captured areas in order to minimize casualties. Their main purpose is to clear the area of LTTE cadres than merely gaining ground.
In the meantime, the 58 Division some two kilomtres away from the Kilinochchi District has virtually surrounded the LTTE held Vellankulam north of Illuppakadavai in the Mannar sector. It is in Vellankulam that the sacred Our Lady Madhu statue was kept after removing it from Madhu Church several months back. This is also the last major stronghold of the Tigers in the North Western coast before Pooneryn.
When the 57 Division enters Kilinochchi District it would be the first time after eight years that the government forces will be operating in the district after the withdrawal from the Elephant Pass base in April 22, 2000.
It is also learnt that some 25,000 people are trapped in Vavunikulam area unable to go to Kilinochchi with the intensification of the fighting between the military and the LTTE in the area.
The troops cut off the Mankulam (A-9) – Vellankulam-Pooneryn main supply road yesterday. Due to the displacement, civilians are said to be gathering near the roads without any shelter seeking means to travel to cleared areas. But because of the LTTE orders they are unable to move out.
It is also reported that the LTTE was trying to use civilians as a human shield. As such more and more of civilians are seeking to enter the government -controlled areas using several routes. Intelligence sources have said that the LTTE is attempting to mobilize the civilians for what they term as the last Eelam war and use them to dig trenches around Tiger camps.
Due to the aggressive recruitment practices by the LTTE (usually, men and women are conscripted) the LTTE still have about 5,000 people under them. Most of these persons are poorly trained, lack any enthusiasm and are held largely by threats to themselves and their families.
Meanwhile, the LTTE is also forcibly using vehicles and properties of International-Non Government Organizations operating in the LTTE held areas.
Intelligence sources revealed that that most of the vehicles belonging to such Organizations are now used for LTTE operational purposes. In proof, eight vehicles of the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), a Norwegian mine-clearing NGO -- one excavator earth moving vehicle, one tractor with water bowser trailer, one Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep, one Tata Pickup vehicle, one Mitsubishi Canter twin-cab, two Ashok Leyland Trucks, one Tata 407 mini truck, and one Tata water tanker -- had been taken away by the LTTE.
The NPA has reported that during a routine inspection of the equipment and resources used by the suspended NPA Mine Action Program on July 24, it was discovered that eight vehicles had been forcibly removed from the NGO’s compound in Kilinochchi during the preceding days.
“The incident was immediately reported to the National Steering Committee for Mine Action under the Ministry of Nation Building and Infrastructure Development and a formal complaint was lodged with the LTTE,” the NPA said in a press statement.
“NPA, together with other INGOs working in Wanni called for the immediate return of its property and a cessation of all acts of intimidation targeting humanitarian staff and their assets,” it added.
The Norwegian agency says the vehicles that were forcibly removed from its premises were used to support humanitarian de-mining activities for five years under the auspices of the National Steering Committee of Mine Action.
The Defence Ministry however has alleged that the Norwegian People's Aid -- one of Norway's biggest non-government organizations-- is suspected of secretly smuggling in weapons for at least another insurgency in Sudan in the past.
A report on the Defence Ministry website noted that several political parties in Sri Lanka in the past had accused the Norwegian government of using its aid outlets to aid the LTTE.
In another development, due to a series of setbacks in the Mannar sector, the LTTE leadership removed ‘Colonel’ Bhanu, the special Commander of Mannar and appointed Jaffna military Leader ‘Colonel’ Theepan to the post on Tuesday. Theepan, who is in charge of the LTTE’s Artillery unit, soon after assuming duties, started to fire heavy rounds of artillery against the Military in the Vellankulam area.
The troops presently are moving to the strategically important Mallavi and Thunukkai and once they consolidate their positions would be able to cut off Mankulam Vellankulam road soon.
Meanwhile, troops of the Task Force-1 flanking the western edge of the combined Mannar- Vavuniya front have also advanced their defences to the A9 main road south of Mankulam.
Navy’s Rapid Action Boat Squadron now in action
Adding another unit to its combat fleet, the Sri Lanka Navy has formed a new boat squadron with quick attacking capability named the Rapid Action Boats Squadron or RABS in order to navigate even in shallow waters.
The new special unit, comprising several dozens of locally built boats and Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) has now been deployed in combat missions.
Earlier, the Navy was unable to carryout any attack in shallow waters, when the LTTE used small fishing boats .However, with the formation of this new unit, the already weakened LTTE will face new problems.
Earlier, it was difficult even in the deep seas to navigate the Fast Attack Craft when the Sea Tigers used small fast boats including suicide craft. With the new squadron the Sri Lanka Navy would be able to operate successfully against these small Sea Tiger boats. The new Squadron will work with the elite force of the Sri Lanka Navy – Special Boat Squadron.
A few weeks ago, this unit surrounded some 250 Indian fishing boats in the Sri Lankan waters for a surprise check. These boats had been later released.
In another incident fast attack craft, fast missile vessels and the RABS of the Navy launched an attack on a fleet of Sea Tiger boats off Chilawaththa, south of Mullaitivu. During the battle three Sea Tiger boats were completely destroyed.
The cluster of LTTE attack type craft were being manoeuvred in shallow waters and when sighted they were preparing to attack the navy.
Again in the seas off Pulmudai, the Navy’s Fast Attack Craft (FACs) and RABS engaged a cluster of LTTE boats on the seas off Pulmudai. In the ensuing confrontation, the FACs destroyed one LTTE boat and inflicted heavy damage to another two.
The Navy had made special security arrangements for parliament during the SAARC summit, by deploying this special unit of the navy, in the Beira Lake and the Diyawanna Oya (close to Parliament).
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