Tiger attack on Mankerni paid with heavy cost
War and Peace : The Defence Diary
84 LTTE cadres, 13 soldiers killed in the fight
The northern insurgency rose to a new intensity when the Tigers
conducted simultaneous attacks on four security forces camps in the East
on August 1, almost suggesting the beginning of the fourth Eelam war.
When beaten back in the Eastern front, which took a heavy toll on the
LTTE's Eastern sector, Tigers shifted battle to the North, having
attacked security forces forward defence lines in the Muhamalai,
Eluthumattuwal and Nagar Kovil. This failed offensive amounted to a self
inflicted annihilation to the LTTE, which lost nearly 1000 cadres and
others wounded seriously in equal numbers. This considerably weakened
the LTTE's fighting strength, having 'neutralised' around one third of
LTTE's 6,000-7,000 strong fighting cadre.
Then came the offers for 'unconditional talks'. Visiting Norwegian
envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer brokered a fresh round of talks set for October
28-29. Air was heavy with the new found optimism on the peace front.
However, Bauer left the shores of the island, fresh fighting erupted in
the East, in Kajuwatta, the last security forces outpost towards
Trincomalee on the Batticaloa-Trincomalee road.
In the wee hours of Friday, the Tigers shelled Mankerni and Kajuwatta
military outposts. Then under the cover of mortar fire, LTTE attacked
the forward defence bunker line in General area of Mankerni and
Kajuwatta. Over two hundred LTTE cadres are believed to have taken part
in the attack.
Army repulsed the Tiger offensive and then pushed the Tigers back
towards Panichchankerni in the Tiger territory. Artillery and Multi
Barrel Rocket Launchers fire was directed at the LTTE positions as naval
gunboats guarded the sea off Vakarai. Troops moved 5 km into the Tiger
According to initial reports from the security forces, twenty two
LTTE cadres were killed during the LTTE attack on the forward defence
localities of the Kajuwatta outpost.
Twelve LTTE bodies were brought to Valachchenai hospital yesterday
and were expected to be handed over to the LTTE through the ICRC.
Further forty LTTE bodies were collected by the troops as they advanced
towards Panichchankerni. The LTTE down played its casualties.
Independent verification of the LTTE casualties could not be certain.
As troops battled the Tigers inside the Tiger territory, Naval gunboats
and Dovra FACs positioned off Vakarai intercepted five sea Tiger boats
bringing in reinforcement for the LTTE fighting in Mankerni. The boats
launched from Kathiraveli were heading towards Mankerni.
In the ensuing confrontation, three sea Tiger boats were destroyed.
Ground troops had intercepted LTTE transmissions saying 20 LTTE cadres
were killed in the confrontation. Soldiers on the ground could see the
boats being destroyed in the Navy attack.
According to a senior Military official, at least 84 LTTE cadres were
killed in the army retaliation. This is based on the LTTE casualties
witnessed by the troops in the ground operation.
A senior military official described the LTTE attack as a "deliberate
and well planned" offensive to overrun the security forces forward
defence lines in the General area of Kajuwatta and Mankerni.
In Panichchankerni, the Tigers offered a fierce resistance to the
advancing troops. Thirteen security forces personnel were killed and
several others injured. This included two soldiers categorised as P1
injury and four soldiers categorised as P2 injury. P1 in military jargon
is the serious injury.
During the fighting Panichchankerni bridge has been destroyed. There
are conflicting versions of the incident. The security forces' blamed
that the Tigers destroyed the bridge to halt advancing troops, while the
Tigers held the security forces responsible.
Collapse of the bridge has stranded over 30,000 civilians in Vakarai
unable to cross to the government controlled area. During the last two
week, nine thousand people sought refuge in Valachchenai, fleeing
Vakarai. Most of them were Sampur refugees, who moved to LTTE controlled
Verugal and Vakarai, following the collapse of the Tiger enclave in the
southern perimeters of the Trinco harbour.
As fighting raged in Panichchankerni, the Karuna faction got into
action. Around 150 Karuna fighters overran LTTE positions in Kaddumurali
Kulam, 10 km west of Vakarai.
According to the Karuna faction, 49 LTTE cadres were believed to have
been killed. Five Karuna fighters were killed and 18 wounded.
This is the second major attack on the mainstream Tigers by the
Karuna faction, which is gradually becoming a force to be reckoned with.
The Karuna faction earlier carried out an attack on three jungle LTTE
camps in Karadiyanaru in Amparai. However, the Tigers dodged the attack
and pulled out from their camps as the Karuna fighters advanced.
Since battered by the surprise Good Friday offensive on 2004 by the
mainstream Tigers, followed by the demobilising of 4,000-5,000 of
Eastern LTTE by the renegade commander Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan
alias Karuna, who then went underground, the Karuna fighters have
increased in many a fold from their hundred odd die hard Karuna
loyalists to a force of approximately 500-600 cadres.
The Karuna faction has conducted an aggressive recruitment drive and
there are also complaints of forced conscription of children. Unicef has
raised the same concerns. The latest flare up of fighting came a week
after the Special Task Force commandos killed sixteen LTTE cadres who
attacked the Pillimalai STF camp.
The STF ambushed the LTTE on a tip off of the impending attack. Later
this week, the STF searched jungles in the area as well as Amparai to
ensure that there is no LTTE infiltration in the area. Police commandos
went deep into jungles, sometimes about 30 km, however, no signs of LTTE
infiltration is seen, according to one officer, who also took part in
In the Northern front, troops exchanged mortar and artillery dual
with the Tigers on Friday. This has now become a routine. Six soldiers
were injured in mortar fire on the Muhamalai forward defence line.
They were admitted to the Palali Military Hospital. Almost daily air
strikes on the artillery and mortar positions in the North have left
their mark on the LTTE. But, they could not eliminate the indirect fire
power of the LTTE.
As LTTE political commissar S. P. Thamilselvan talked peace with
Norwegian peace envoy Hanssen Bauer, the Tigers exchanged mortar and
artillery fire with the security forces deployed in Muhamalai. Later
Israeli built Kafir fighter jets targeted three identified LTTE
artillery positions and an ammunition dump in Poonaryn and Pallai. Next
day, airforce conducted several sorties on the sea Tiger bases in
Kathiraveli and Vakarai.
Artillery positions in Poonaryn point pose the greatest danger to the
security of the Palali military Air port.
The LTTE repeatedly targeted the Palali military airport with 130 mm
artillery guns which have an effective fire range of 27 km. Though the
LTTE's failed in its offensive to lay seige to the city of Jaffna in mid
August, it succeeded in halting operation of fixed wing aircraft from
the Palali military airport.
As new fighting broke up in the East, the LTTE is reported to have
held a emergency meeting of its military leaders in Kilinochchi. The
LTTE military spokesman Irasiah Ilantharian alias Marshal said the "defence
counsel of the LTTE forces has been summoned. The future course of
action would depend on the outcome of the meeting".
Intelligence sources also confirmed that a meeting of LTTE military
leaders had taken place in Kilinochchi.
According to reports available, the LTTE had stopped short of pulling
out from the new round of talks. Instead, the LTTE leadership was
planning to write to the Norwegian peace facilitators raising concerns
of the LTTE on the security situation. Yesterday Thamilselvan wrote to
the Norwegian peace envoy, Jon Hanssen Bauer warning to pull out if
attacks continued. "Unless the Sri Lankan military halts its actions, we
will be forced into an unfortunate situation where we will have to
re-examine our decision (to hold talks), the LTTE political commissar
said in his letter. Military analysts view the LTTE offer for
unconditional talks as a means to buy time to re-group and re-arm for a
fresh offensive. They point to the failed LTTE attempt to smuggle arms
in the sunken ship off Kalmunai. Still, most of the military top brass
do not believe that the ethnic question should have a military solution.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Donald Perera echoed the same
concerns when he told reporters the ethnic question needed to be solved
The Ramesh Saga
A story has been making rounds in the East since early this week. It
said that Eastern military leadzer, Thambirajah Ramesh was planning to
switch sides. Ramesh who was Karuna's deputy was appointed to Karuna's
place following the latter going underground. However, Ramesh could do
little to counter sporadic attacks by the Karuna loyalists. Bhanu was
appointed in Ramesh's place as the Batticaloa-Amparai military
The story goes as that the Wanni LTTE leadership had sent Ramesh to
lead 100 LTTE cadres for an attack in the government controlled area.
Having done this, they have tipped off the security forces of the
impending attack. This was to make sure Ramesh is killed.
However, either Army or the Karuna faction tipped off Ramesh of the
LTTE strategy. So the story goes that Ramesh is now contemplating
joining the Karuna faction.
Ramesh is said to be in the Thoppigala LTTE base, also called Tora
Bora after the Osama Bin Laden's mountainous hide out in Afghanistan.
He is with around 75-100 fighters loyal to him.
But a non LTTE politico-military activist, who during Karuna's split
strongly campaigned among the country's political and military
leadership for military back up for Karuna, ruled out the possibility of
These two factions don't see eye to eye. Ramesh has a lot of problems
with Karuna. I don't think this can ever happen, he said.