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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Remembering the lost lives of soldiers in December 2008

Today Kilinochchi shows no signs of a war. Just the monument that stands in the middle of the town to remind that freedom came over lives of hundreds of valiant men who fought selflessly. This time of the year in 2008 the Kilinochchi soil was soaked in blood and the air was filled with painful mourns of the wounded soldiers.


Kilinochchi - now

The Sri Lankan security forces made supreme sacrifices in liberating their motherland from the LTTE jackboot. Kilinochchi, the LTTE headquarters was a ghost town when the Sri Lanka Army troops of the 57 Division marched in January 2009 under the command of General Officer Commanding Major General Jagath Dias.

The air used to be filled with fear and uncertainty. Broken damaged, abandoned houses without roofs, blasted water tanks, buildings with explosives trapped, overgrown home gardens all gave a ghostly feeling to these towns and villages. When the 58 Division under General Officer Commanding Major General Shavendra Silva captured Paranthan as the world approached the dawn of 2009, it was almost a no man's land.

Importance

More than a strategic location Kilinochchi was important to the Tigers in terms of military operations, it was of a symbolic importance because it was the de facto capital of Tamil Eelam, the separate state that the LTTE is fighting for.

The town of Kilinochchi was important for the LTTE because it was the showcase of the organisation. According to government claims, all civil administrative affairs were handled by government authorities despite the LTTE being in control of the town.

The capture of Kilinochchi would have been the greatest blow to the LTTE which was categorised as the most ruthless terror outfit in the world without any iota of doubt. Fierce battles erupted in December in the outskirts of Kilinochchi and Paranthan amidst floods that played havoc in the battlefront for the past one and half months after the capture of Pooneryn.


The horrific past with LTTE


Destroyed water tank

The initial success of the battles to capture Paranthan and Kilinochchi came on December 16 as 57 Division and the 58 Division launched simultaneous attacks on the LTTE's ditch cum bund that has been constructed defending these two strategic towns from the West of A-9 road.

That was the final barrier that has to be overcome by the troops to reach either Paranthan or Kilinochchi.

Paranthan was the key target of the 58 Division under the command of Brigadier Shavendra Silva which captured strategically important Pooneryn town on the Western coast on November 15, whilst Kilinochchi was the key target of the 57 Division under the command of Major General Jagath Dias.

Turning point

Capturing Akkarayankulam in mid October 2008, a large village located to the southwest of Kilinochchi could be considered as an opening path cleared by the 57 division. The capture of this village enabled the troops to attack Kilinochchi from the southwest.

The Iranamadu junction, located to the south of Kilinochchi was also captured later, that made it possible for the troops to advance towards Kilinochchi from the south.

Troops from the 57 Division earlier captured several LTTE strongholds such as Adampan and Kokavil.

The Tigers were using fresh stocks of ammunition unloaded from a ship operating in the international waters close to Sri Lanka.

Throughout the month of December, the Army conducted three offensives in an attempt to take Kilinochchi. Heavy monsoon rains affected both sides during the months of November and December, with floods covering a large area in and around Kilinochchi. Troop movements were limited by this, and mines had been scattered around the area by the flood waters.

Throughout the offensive, the Sri Lanka Air Force carried out numerous air strikes against Kilinochchi in support of the Army's ground troops.

With the capture of Pooneryn the 58 Division diverted its battlefront from West to East to advance towards Paranthan and confronted heavily with the LTTE in the ditch cum bund along with the 57 Division which was on the Kilinochchi front.

Although a fair number of casualties and deaths were reported from the Security Forces during the fierce battles in the 57 and 58 Division fronts troops managed to capture a stretch of earth bund from the North of Pooneryn Paranthan B-69 Road.

A section of the earth bund had to be given up due to heavy casualties during the counter attacks of the LTTE. The bad weather and the flooded terrains made them difficult to operate in the earth bund as they faced difficulties in casualty evacuation.

No escape

Following the capture of Kilinochchi, the LTTE pushed the escaping civilians more towards the eastern coast.

This silenced the artillery attack to the other side of the Jaffna lagoon from Paranthan. Lead by Major General Kamal Gunarathne the 53 Division reached the Elephant Pass gateway to the Northern Peninsula as year 2009 dawned and the 53 and 58 divisions were united.

There was no escape for the LTTE along the Eastern coast towards North as troops of the 55 Division under the command of Major General Prasanna de Silva who manned the eastern coast of the Jaffna Peninsula bridging every lagoon on the way.


The war monument

This unity of Army troops was too much for the LTTE to bear. With the rest of the Army troops strongly holding the rescued grounds and forcing towards the LTTE from the south and towards the east from the A9 road the LTTE was compelled to move into a smaller area on the Puthumathalan coastal line.

It the capture of Kilinochchi that made victory clear and the move that gave the terrorists a defeating mentality.

Kilinochchi capture gave strength to the Government to stand and tell the world that the war against terrorism launched under the directives of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was on right track.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, announced the capture of Kilinochchi at the Presidential Secretariat on the eve of January 2, and called for the LTTE to lay down arms and surrender, stating that this would be the "final message" to the LTTE.

In his speech, he stated "What our heroic troops have achieved is not only the capture of the great fortress of the LTTE, but a major victory in the world's battle against terrorism."

Today there has been a total transformation. Amidst the numerous allegations and obstructions this island nation walked far away from the iron fist of terrorism clearing a path to bring the country to a better position economically, socially and culturally.

All the success was carried on the shoulders of the valiant soldiers and admirably they still have not put down their duties to rest.

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