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LTTE's military 'parity' bared as a lie

For those who argued for a military parity between the security forces and the LTTE, confrontations of the last few days are a reminder of the hollowness of the argument.

Of course, the Tigers have notable achievements in guerrilla warfare, which is part of asymmetric warfare where a militarily weaker party fights its enemy taking the advantage of a friendly terrain and population.

In a guerrilla attack, there is always an element of surprise which stands for the advantage of the attack However, in a conventional war, the Tigers are not a match for the security forces. The danger, however, is that the asymmetry in the balance of power could lead Tigers to take on soft targets to avenge the losses in the battlefield. This requires the security in the south to be beefed up. According to intercepted LTTE transmissions, over 330 LTTE cadres have been killed during the last four days of fighting in the East. This includes 152 LTTE fatalities in the failed battle to overrun Mutur Jetty on Friday. Three sailors were killed and eight injured in the confrontation. According to intercepted communications, 126 LTTE cadres were injured.

Of course, the war casualties are not a numbers game. Every number stands for a life. But, what is evident in the LTTE's desperate bid to carry on the fight, despite heavy casualties on its part, is its sheer disregard for human life in pursuing its agenda.

Friday's LTTE bid to overrun the Mutur jetty was reminiscent to its previous military operations codenamed "Unceasing Waves," some of which succeeded, most notably Unceasing Waves III which overran Elephant Pass military garrison, despite heavy battle casualties.

However, Friday's attempt to overrun the Mutur Jetty amounted to a self-inflicted annihilation.

Easy targets

After a day of calmness in the battlefront, Tiger cadres attempted to storm the jetty on Friday afternoon. They followed the same pattern of Unceasing Waves, sending human waves one after the other to storm the jetty, supported by heavy mortars and heavy calibre machine guns. But, they were beaten back and as some naval troops told the Sunday Observer, the waves of LTTE cadres proved to be easy targets for troops. Indeed, troops anticipated a retaliation from the Tigers after their losses in the first three days.

One hundred and fifty two cadres were killed in the Navy retaliation. Naval troops recovered 40-50 LTTE bodies along with a large haul of weapons which included a 5mm high calibre machine gun.

The Navy contacted the International Committee of Red Cross and SLMM to the transfer bodies.

Friday's attack is viewed as the culmination of an LTTE offensive, which however proved to be costly, in retaliation to the security force's operation in Mavilaru, where the Tigers had closed the sluice gates cutting off the water supply to 15,000 families.

The first diversionary attack took place on Tuesday. The LTTE fired 12 rounds of artillery from Sampur to the Trinco naval base, killing five sailors and seriously injuring 12.

Under the cover of artillery fire, sea Tigers launched five suicide boats to target Security personnel carrier, Jetliner.

The merchant vessel escaped the sea Tiger attack and sailed into the Trinco harbour while Dvora gun boats engaged with sea Tiger boats. Three sea Tiger boats were destroyed. The same night, a flotilla of sea Tiger boats attacked three Navy gun boats in Pulmudai. A cordon of Navy gun boats were set up in Pulmudai to cut off Tiger reinforcement to the East from where desperate messages had been sent to the Vanni asking for more troops if they were to continue with the battle.

Twelve sea Tiger boats attempted to attack the Naval patrol boats. In the subsequent navy retaliation, five sea Tiger boats were destroyed and four disabled.

According to intercepted LTTE communications, 80 sea Tigers had been killed in the two sea battles on Tuesday.

This included three sea Tiger leaders, Kujan, Thamilselilan and female cadre, Selvi.

It was this failure in the sea, which compelled Tigers for a risky gamble on military camps located adjacent to LTTE controlled areas.

In the wee hours of Wednesday, Tiger cadres surrounded Kattaparichchan, Selvanayar, Pahala Thoppur, Mutur and Mahindapura security camps.

The LTTE overran four bunker lines in Kattaparichchan. In Mahindapura, the LTTE cut off reinforcement to the besieged military camp.

However by noon on Wednesday, troops supported by reinforcements took control of the ground. In Kattaparichchan, five wounded LTTE female fighters surrendered. Five bodies were also recovered.

Battle escalates

The battle in the pre-dominantly Muslim town, Mutur, however, escalated as LTTE succeed moving 600 cadres from Pooneryn to the Eastern front.

LTTE robbed two public banks, overran a police post and took control of the Mutur hospital.

A Tiger flag was seen fluttering in the communication tower.

On Wednesday night, the Army's Special Force and Navy's Special Boat Squadron (SBS) were inducted into Mutur. After initial fighting, Tiger cadres blended themselves with civilians and fought security forces taking civilians as a human shield.

Heavy intermittent mortar and artillery barrage were directed at Mutur from LTTE controlled Sampur. One shell hit the Mutur Arabic School where thousand of civilians took refugee having fled fighting.

Ten civilians were killed and over 18 were injured, Two other schools came under shelling which killed further six civilians and injured scores of others.

Transport of the injured became impossible as heavy fighting and intermittent shelling prevailed.

Possible Rocket Propel Grenade (RPG) fire prevented choppers from landing to evacuate civilians. On Thursday, the Navy however, transported over 90 injured civilians to Trincomalee via the sea.

On Thursday morning, SBS commandoes commenced house to house search operations to mop out Tiger cadres. By Friday noon, they had succeeded in consolidating the city centre while, Army commandoes engaged with Tiger cadres in the southern end of the town.

Series of setbacks

Hit by a series of setbacks during the first three days, the LTTE on Friday fought its last battle. Human wave after wave tried to storm the Mutur Jetty and were beaten back.

That could be the last battle in Mutur for some time. But according to intercepted LTTE transmissions, LTTE local leaders have requested more cadres from its Batticaloa sector, fearing that the security forces would advance into Tiger territory in Sampur.

 

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