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Sunday, 29 November 2009





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Government Gazette

The 59 Division’s solo battle in the thick jungles of Mullaitivu

The strategy to defeat the LTTE in the Wanni battlefront was not a simple one, like the way it was done, in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The Tri Forces had learnt many lessons from the past and were determined not to repeat those mistakes in their latest endeavour to liberate Wanni from the clutches of the LTTE.

One obvious weakness in their earlier military plans was that those plans lacked a comprehensive military objective of liberating the entire Wanni. Those plans were basically focused on capturing major Tiger strongholds of much political value than strategic value.

The architects of the Wanni liberation operation, were aware of the fact that the LTTE could take the upper hand in the battlefront if they focused only on one location. Therefore, they focused on their military strategy, to liberate the entire Wanni instead of focusing on main Tiger bases.

That was why the SLA opened battlefronts one after the other from various locations in the Wanni. The first battlefront, the 57 offensive Division from West of A-9 road, the Mannar battlefront of the Task Force I or the 58 Division were opened as a part of this comprehensive objective of liberating entire Wanni.

Many of the major LTTE bases had fallen to the hands of the Security Forces as a part of their overall military strategy, but not as a result of focusing singularly on the particular stronghold. The overall objective of the military was to create a wider battlefront so that the LTTE could not face them in such an easy way.

The government’s strategy was focused on completely eliminating terrorism from the Sri Lankan soil without leaving single room for terror elements to breed once again in the jungle terrains in Wanni.

If the political leadership wanted to gain political advantage out of the military victories against the LTTE they would have easily directed the troops to capture those Tiger strongholds with much political value rather than focusing on a jungle terrain in the Wanni and would have easily ended the war within a short span of time pushing the terror elements into the jungle patches of Wanni.

But that effort was not made with a narrow political objective. The Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa backed the efforts of the Security Forces of achieving this comprehensive military objective rather than achieving their petty political objectives.

Their strategy was focused on completely eliminating terrorism from the Sri Lankan soil without leaving single room for terror elements to breed once again in the jungle terrains in Wanni.

It was with that objective and to support the overall military objective of creating a wider battlefront in the Wanni that the Sri Lanka Army opened up its new battlefront in Weli Oya on January 15 , 2008.

Brigadier Nandana Udawatta, the Deputy General Officer Commanding of the 57 Division was selected to lead this battlefront appointing him as the GOC of the 59 Division. Brigadier Udawatta was from the Armoured Corps of the Sri Lanka Army.

Unlike the two other battlefronts, which were operating West of A-9 at the beginning of the year 2008, the battlefront opened up in Weli Oya, had to fight this battle in the thick jungle terrain without seeing any populated area ahead of them until they passed the Mullaitivu jungle to enter Nayaru, Alampil and Kumulamunai.

The 59 Division had its first headquarters in Helambavewa and started their operations from Nelunvewa. Many predicted that the fierce battles in the Wanni battle front were expected to erupt in the Weli Oya front once the 59 Division started its advance opening up a 12 Km long battlefront from Kokkuthuduvai to Kiriibbanvewa.

Since it was the peak of the recruitment drive of the Sri Lanka Army, with nearly 3,000 odd youth joining monthly it worked overtime to form new regular infantry battalions and induct them into the battlefront after providing them with comprehensive training.


Three Brigades, 591 under the command of Lt. Colonel Aruna Ariyasinghe, 592 Brigade under the Command of Lt. Colonel Maneesha Silva and 593 Brigade under the Command of Lt Colonel Palitha Fernando were formed under the 59 Division to go ahead with the task of penetrating the key LTTE hideouts in the Andankulam forest reserve or famously known Mullaitivu jungles south of Mullaitivu in the Martime Pattu Division in the Mullaitivu district.

Although, they were aware of the LTTE presence ahead of Kokkuthuduvai, they did not want to touch the area in head on confrontation but focused solely on isolating the Tiger cadres operating there.

Though many experts predicted that the Mullaitivu jungle would have been turned in to a killing field, the new concepts and strategies adopted by the troops in confronting the LTTE in this jungle terrain had made a vast difference in the operational methods of the Security Forces.

The Special Infantry Operation training given to all the troops inducted to this jungle terrain were adjusted to the jungle warfare taking the upper hand in the battles in the Mullaitivu jungles.

It was the LTTE which faced many hardships in defending their territory in this jungle terrain basically due to lack of manpower. Therefore, it used to create mine fields and trappings to prevent troops advancing into their territory. Within the first seven months of the year 2009 troops of the 59 Division advanced more than 7 kms into the Mullaitivu jungle from Kiriibbanvewa tank and three to four kilometers from Janakapura facing the edge of Kokkuthuduvai.

One of the strategic locations they had to defend inside this jungle terrain was the 1-4 base complex which had been used by the LTTE in the late 1980’s and 1990’s as their major hideouts. Although troops had conquered half of this jungle terrain on earlier occasions, some of those Tiger bases remained intact.

The 59 Division started off its operation with the capture of Alpha-I base a small base that ahead of the Tiger defences. Then they had to confront heavily with the LTTE once they moved closer to the supply route the LTTE had inside this jungle terrain to feed their cadres manning their defences. Troops took control of this supply route constructed by the LTTE North of Janakapura from Kokkuthuduvai to Thannimurippukulam tank which had been used by the LTTE to supply food for cadres dominating the Forward Defence Line following fierce battles with the LTTE. They had to neutralise number of counter attacks by the LTTE to keep it under their control. Later, the 59 Division troops renamed that road as ‘Jaya Mawatha’.

Following the capture of this supply route, the LTTE had to change their tactics in defending their terrain. They created open terrains inside these thick jungles to prevent troops infiltrating their bases. Hundreds of civilians were used against their wish to clear the jungle patches to create these open terrains as they were unable to protect their bases as the thick jungle patches provided cover for the troops when conducting their operations.

The Munnagam Base, West of Janakapura was the first Tiger Base that fell to the hands of the Security Forces. It was in June, 2008, the troops attached to the 7 Gemunu Watch under the command of Lt. Colonel Priyantha Perera captured this strategic base after fierce fighting with the LTTE. The first major underground bunker of the LTTE inside the Mullaitivu jungles was found inside Munnagam Base. Munnagam Base was identified as the Sutheshan base by the military officials who engaged in Operation Thunder Strike in 1991.

Following the capture of Munnagam Base, LTTE withdrew further towards the North creating yet another massive open area removing the undergrowth of the thick jungle so that they could detect troops’ movement through this open terrain.

The troops attached to the 59 Division engaged the entire LTTE defence line ahead of the open terrain on June 8, 2008 with the objective of crossing this open terrain with a huge number of trappings and mines. But the troops attached to the 7 Gemunu Watch battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Priyantha Perera, and 14 Vijayaba Infantry Battalions under the command of Major Laksiri Perera crossed this open terrain amidst stiff resistance from the LTTE on June 08, but others failed to cross this terrain due to heavy LTTE resistance.

The 7 GW and 14 VIR troops captured Tiger points after crossing this open terrain. Intelligence reports indicated that more than 25 LTTE cadres had been killed during this offensive and 35 others injured. Twelve cadres including a female leader in the self-styled ‘Lt. Colonel rank’ had been killed in this attack.

Fierce fighting erupted in this open terrain even on June 10 as Tigers made desperate attempts to recapture the bunker line which was captured by the troops on June 08 after crossing the open terrain. A number of Tiger cadres were reportedly killed during this attack. One soldier was also killed and another seven injured during the fierce battle that continued for more than one hour.

The LTTE tried their best to make this jungle terrain a killing field to delay the speedy advance of the troops to vital Tiger bases in this stretch of jungle. But troops braved all those barricades created by the LTTE to capture the entire 1-4 base complex which was located in that jungle patch.

The LTTE, which used to deploy their female cadres to dominate these defences, at this point decided to induct well trained cadres to this front fearing they would get into trouble very soon. Therefore, they decided to deploy more than 500 well trained cadres along with reserve groups to defend this terrain fearing that troops would reach Nityakaikulam and Kumulamunai located just nine kilometres ahead of the areas where the troops were operating by that time.


Reaching Nityakaikulam and Kumulamunai was detrimental for them as it would see the end of their fighting in the jungle terrain. That was the most expected turning point in this battlefront that would push the Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to his do or die battle.

Taking all those challenges into their hands the 59 Division, which engaged in a solo battle till the end of year 2008, reached its targets one by one capturing the 1-4 base complex. They captured the Michael Base on July 4, 2008 after three days of fighting after capturing the LTTE’s key defence line ahead of the open terrain.

The offensive to destroy the strategic base began on July 2, 2008 and the Army faced heavy resistance from the LTTE combatants taking refuge in well-protected bunkers which the outfit had built over the years.

The well-fortified Michael Base, was constituted many outposts located seven km north of Janakapura. It was considered impregnable by the LTTE.

On August 16, LTTE lost one more major base north of Andankulam when the troops of the 59 Division forged ahead and captured “Jeevan Base” which had been used by the LTTE as a training centre. It was located 1.5 km southwest of the western edge of the Nayaru lagoon and, troops found a graveyard in which 67 tombs of dead terrorists at the Jeevan Base. Four buildings with an area of about 1250 square meters, one hundred underground bunkers, thirty-five lavatories, two concrete bunkers of 15 x 15 ft, two wheelbarrows, forty empty barrels, and a heap of slippers were found inside the base which was considered a part of their 14 - Base Complex. Four prison cells, probably used by LTTE as torture chambers to punish and detain those who disobeyed their senior cadres, were also found at the premises.

When the troops of the 57 and 58 Division headed into the Tiger strongholds West of A-9 road, the 59 Division which continued its solo battle in this thick and dark jungles also passed many milestones in their march towards Mullaitivu amidst severe hardship and prepared their battle front to box the Tiger terrorists from South of Mullaitivu and were keenly braced to surround the LTTE’s major Sea Tiger base in the North Eastern coast by the last quarter of the year 2008.

LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)
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