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DateLine Sunday, 17 February 2008

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Government Gazette

Security forces on their way to eradicating terrorism completely

The year 2008 has been earmarked for elimination of terrorism from the country. It was after the victories achieved by the Security Forces in the Eastern theatre by fully eradicating terrorism from the Eastern province the Government and the Security Forces made this determination at the dawn of the year to make all their efforts to achieve this target within the year.

If we have a flashback on the many stages of the conflict, many predictions made by politicians have become unrealistic ones and all their attempts to eliminate LTTE terrorism fully from the North East has been shattered at the hands of the terror tactics of the Tiger leader Prabhakaran.

The most recent example was the declarations made by the former Deputy Defence Minister General Anuruddha Ratwatte in late 1990's to eliminate LTTE within months as the Security Forces launched operation 'Jaya Sikurui' (Victory Assured) on May 13, 1997 to liberate a land route to Jaffna peninsula.

Though it was successful in capturing 90 per cent of the A-9 but later, that operation turned into the longest military operation in the military history of the country as it dragged on for 18 months but abandoned it in December 1998 without reaching the set goals.

It was at the tale end of this military operation the LTTE hit back at the troops with their Unceasing Wave operation compelling the troops to withdraw up to Omanthai leaving all their military bases. In the Northern front also the LTTE was able to push back Security Forces defences up to Muhamalai after the Elephant Pass debacle.

It was with this background in mind many critics are looking apprehensively at the current military operations to liberate Wanni from the clutches of the LTTE. They are more apprehensive of the Security Forces with the sudden increase of the casualty rate after fierce battles erupted in Mannar, Vavuniya and Weli Oya within last two weeks.

The fierce battle which erupted in the Weli Oya this week, killing six soldiers and injuring 24 made some critics come to the conclusion that LTTE was still powerful in the Wanni and are capable enough to hit back at the troops at any moment.

Even the, barrages of artillery rounds fired at Thalladi, where the Army is having its key bases, damaging St. Sebastians Church on Tuesday has also been taken as show of strength by the LTTE, by many critics, leaving aside the sacrilegious act committed by the LTTE.

As this column repeatedly highlighted that the battle to liberate Wanni is not a cake walk. If this operation is such a simple task the Security Forces would have taken this territory by this time if the Government just wanted a political mileage out of this military operation.

The Security Forces have taken a realistic approach, as we highlighted earlier, to liberate Wanni and this type of temporary setbacks are always expected by them in a battle of this nature. But it is unfair to highlight the increased number of casualties rate on the part of the Security Forces in the Weli Oya front as a set back. In reality the LTTE suffered much more casualties than the troops attached to the 59 Division which became operational since mid January this year under the command of Brigadier Nandana Udawatta who once served as the Deputy General Officer Commanding of the 57 Division in Kalmadu.

The troops engaged in long range patrolling on Thursday had observed how LTTE had suffered at the hand of the Security Forces with the number of casualties they are transporting to Mullaitivu from the Weli Oya battle front. The troops operating inside the LTTE controlled area (we will not disclose the location in view of the safety of the troops) had hit at a tractor carrying LTTE cadres to their FDLs killing six of them.

Later they have observed that LTTE was carrying their casualties in a Rosa bus, the latest mode of vehicle used by the Tiger cadres to transport their casualties, towards Mullaitivu direction. Apart from this they have counted eight ambulances which were filled with casualties heading towards Puthukuduiruppu, Mullaitivu.

This was a clear indication that the LTTE too suffer heavy casualties in these battle fronts and the numbers are very much higher than the number of casualties on the Security Forces side.

The other factor contributing to the increase of casualty rate in this new battle front is that the terrain in the Weli Oya sector is still new to troops. This was a common feature when troops attached to 57 Division commenced their operations from Kalmadu area.

There had been a large number of casualties in the 57 Division early last year but gradually the number had decreased, as they destroyed the Tiger gun positions and defences in the Vavuniya front.

But the most vital factor for the LTTE to pose a major threat on the troops in the Weli Oya front is that they have realised the fact that their strongholds in Mullaitivu are in imminent danger at the hands of the Security Forces.

In the Weli Oya front the troops are confronting the LTTE at eight locations and creating 10 kilo metres long front from Kokkuthuduval to Ethavetunuvewa with deployment of nine battalions along with the Special Forces troops.

The troops attached to the 59 Division too are having a battle front that is similar to the Vavuniya front dominated by the 57 Division under the command of Brigadier Jagath Dias, as they too have to operate within thick jungle patches. Therefore, in this battle front the LTTE and the Security Forces are heavily dependent on artillery and mortar fire while LTTE is depending on booby traps and AP mines to delay the advance of the troops.

The Tiger leadership is desperately in need of stopping the advance of the troops as they very clearly realised that if troops advance another 10 kilo metres into their territory from the Weli Oya front and reach the Kumulamunai area in the Mullaitivu district, all the military and logistic bases and gun positions of the LTTE will fall within the artillery range of the Security Forces.

If the troops are able to advance another 15 Km or 5 Km Northwards from the Kumulamunai the LTTE is going to lose the control over the civilian population in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi as they will tend to leave Wanni and leave towards cleared areas fearing major confrontations within Wanni.

That is why the Tiger outfit is making desperate attempts at least to delay the advance of the troops by posing stiff resistance to the troops operating in the Weli Oya sector. But, the troops are effectively facing all these tactics of the LTTE.

Similar type of situation is prevailing in the Vavuniya front with many of the strategic places coming under the Security Forces control. The troops are now in control of Mullikulam area ahead of Palampiddi. The 571 Brigade under the command of Colonel Priyal is heading towards Palampiddi and the capture of Palampiddi will definitely mark the fall of Madhu shrine area to the hands of the Security Forces.

The fall of Palampiddi, will also create problems for the Tiger cadres operating in the Mannar front as all supplies to that theatre will be cut off once Palampiddi falls to the hands of the Security Forces.

Such a move will definitely weaken the LTTE in the Mannar front compelling the LTTE to withdraw from the area. It was in this background, strategic Thalladi came under fierce artillery attack on Tuesday killing six soldiers and injuring nearly 15 who were cleaning the St. Sebastian's Church on the request made by a group of priests in Mannar to the Mannar area commander.

One of the major problems the LTTE is facing in this theatre is that they are now being pushed to a disadvantageous situation, in which they cannot direct artillery fire at vital Security Forces installations in the Mannar region.

According to the latest development achieved by troops of the Task Force -I is that once they advance another one kilometre ahead of their current defence line they will not come under LTTEs 122 mm artillery range in Thalladi.

The Security Forces believe that the LTTE had directed artillery fire after dragging this gun for days to Vidathalthivu area as they had felt imminent threat from the Security Forces side.

The military sources in Mannar also indicates that the Tiger leadership has taken new initiative to construct a new defence line in the North of Mannar after they realized the fact their defences in Mannar will soon fall to the Security Forces.

Ramesh, who was the Batticaloa Military leader, has been entrusted with this task of constructing this bunker line to defend their territory. Apart from the battle front from Mannar to Weli Oya the Security Forces in Muhmalai front in Jaffna is also functioning well in that theatre posing major threat to the LTTE.

Though, troops have capability to capture the Tiger FDL in Muhamalai they have made no effort to dominate this since the LTTE artillery guns registered to these positions will definitely cause heavy casualties among the troops.

So there is no hesitancy on the part of the Security Forces from the Jaffna front, but are making every possible attempt to destabilize the LTTE defences by conducting limited operations.

According to the latest intelligence reports the LTTE is maintaining 3,000 well trained cadres to man their defences from Mannar to Weli Oya and then in the Jaffna front. Inside in Wanni they have a strength of 2,500 to maintain security of the Tiger leader Prabhakaran and other leaders and for road pickets. Apart from this they also have 700 Sea Tigers.

The main concern of the public is why the LTTE is maintaining such big strength even after claims by the Security Forces that thousands of their cadres have been killed during the past few months.

It was due to the recruitment drive carried out by the LTTE to recruit the second member from each family living in Wanni.

Though they are successful in their efforts of recruiting people at present, there is no possibility for them to replace all the cadres getting killed at the hands of the Security Forces. So there will be a day the LTTE would face acute shortage of man power to face the troops advancing towards the Wanni strongholds.

That will be the day the LTTE will have to face a humiliating defeat in the Wanni.

Signs are emerging that many cadres are fed up with the LTTE and their morale is at the lowest level by this time.

The number of letters recovered from LTTE positions in Weli Oya has revealed the plight they are now undergoing in LTTE defences.

They are even cursing their parents for putting them in such an awful position allowing the LTTE to recruit them to this organization.

Contrary to this the Security Forces have been able to maintain a big strength with the recruitment of 30,000 soldiers last year and another 5,000 this year.

So the Army is in a position to replace the soldiers who sustain injuries in the battle front.

Apart from this it also has the required capacity to strengthen the existing battalions by adding more manpower to these battalions.

But the Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka refutes the speculations that Army is going to form another Division to be deployed in the Wanni operations.

So with these developments, there is no necessity on the part of the Security Forces to be disturbed by any criticism and predictions as their only aim is to eliminate terrorism from the country and to save the country from decades of suffering as they are well within their target.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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