SOUTH ASIA: SRI LANKA News Briefs
After exactly one year of ‘declared war’, the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) overran Kilinochchi Town, the de-facto capital of the projected Tamil Eelam (Homeland). The SLA captured Kilinochchi, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) political and administrative headquarters in the early hours of January 2, 2009, as they launched simultaneous attacks from three directions in Paranthan, Iranamadu and Adampan. The Defence Ministry disclosed that troops of 57th Division entered the highly defended stronghold from the southern and south-western boundaries while Task Force-I troops marched in from the north and the northwest. The Army had earlier taken the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) Highway on the Omanthai-Paranthan stretch. Notably, it was on January 2, 2008, that the Sri Lanka Government had decided to withdraw from the Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) signed on February 22, 2002, between the then United National Front (UNF) Government and the LTTE.
The fall of Kilinochchi has, at once, exposed the myth of the LTTE’s invincibility and the credentials of many a much-experienced ‘strategic expert’. Some uncomprehending experts have currently succumbed to inexplicable bouts of breast-beating at this decisive defeat of what has long been recognized as one of the most lethal and enduring terrorist organisations in the world. Thus, one such expert, who had earlier warned that the conflict in Kilinochchi would be "a long and fatal kiss" for the "young and hastily-trained Sinhalese recruits" of the SLA, quickly shifts his dire predictions to Mullaitivu. He had warned that Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka’s "keenness to keep his promise of ‘In Kilinochchi before the New Year’" would prove as disastrous as General Douglas McArthur’s promise of "home before Christmas" in the Korean war, because "Kilinochchi has now nothing but death traps for the SL Army laid by the LTTE". Adding some historical wisdom to these assessments, he asserted, further, "The battle being fought for Kilinochchi is a combined miniature version of the battles of Stalingrad in the erstwhile USSR and El Alamein in North Africa". This expert now draws parallels between "scenes witnessed after the US Army moved without resistance into Baghdad" and notes that, "Almost six years later, the violence still continues in Iraq." The learned conclusion drawn is that "the end of the LTTE’s campaign will come not when it loses an important piece of territory, but when it loses the support of the Tamil people in the areas still controlled by it and in the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora."
This is just unqualified nonsense and is based on an inversion of the logic of counter-terrorism successes in theatre after theatre across South Asia. The reality is, the defeat of terrorism results in a dissipation of the legitimacy of rebel forces and of what passes for ‘popular support’. Rebel groups and the ideologies they propagate have repeatedly been discredited by defeat. The reality of ‘popular support’ moreover, is that it is based at least as much on the terror the group is able to inflict on its ‘followers’ as on any ideological appeal (though this may not be as much the case with vocal, affluent and unduly influential Diaspora elements who operate outside the risk and terror of the actual conflict).
Another notable expert-in-mourning sees the defeat at Kilinochchi as a disaster for Indian foreign policy: "We have lost the game", he notes theatrically, "Whatever influence India had would diminish as a result of Sri Lanka being able to handle the situation entirely on its own… It is a strategic error (for India) not to keep back channels with the LTTE". It is, indeed, astonishing to learn that India has no leverage in Sri Lanka other than the option of supporting a terrorist organisation that is banned on Indian soil, and a terrorist leadership that was responsible for the assassination of one of its former Prime Ministers. Incredible, moreover, that Sri Lanka’s abilities to "handle the situation entirely on its own" (a small exaggeration, certainly), undermines the possibility of diplomatic influence in a country that has a long tradition – only occasionally marred – of friendly relations with India.
But such are the contours of strategic sagacity in South Asia.
at the time of writing, the troops attached to Task Force-IV, operating
in the East of the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) Road, have captured the key
junction town, Oddusudan, on the Mankulam-Mullaitivu (A-34) Road, taking
full control of the Oddusudan-Nedunkerni-Puliyankulam Road, and are
surging ahead, just four kilometres away from the centre of the LTTE’s
military bastion at Mullaitivu. About 30,000 troops are also currently
deployed in Kilinochchi to clear the town of booby traps and landmines.
In a special address to the nation on State television Rupavahini, hours after the troops captured Kilinochchi, President Mahinda Rajapakse described the action as a "major victory in the world’s battle against terrorism." He reiterated the resolve of his Government to continue the fight till the LTTE was "fully and finally defeated," and asserted this was "the final message to the LTTE, to lay down their arms and surrender." He said his Government would continue the fight against the LTTE until the "final act of this false Eelam struggle is played to its finish" in the small territory of the jungle dominated Mullaitivu, where it is confined today.
Acknowledging the loss, the pro-LTTE Tamil Net website stated that the SLA "has entered a virtual ghost town as the whole civilian infrastructure as well as the centre of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had shifted further northeast." The Website claimed that the LTTE, who had put up heavy resistance, kept their casualties low in the defensive fighting, adding, "It is the first time after a decade the Sri Lankan forces have been able to take control of the town after several months of fierce fighting that has claimed hundreds of combatants on both sides of the war."
The LTTE first took control of Kilinochchi in 1990, when the SLA withdrew its garrisons after the departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). The SLA regained control of the town following operations Sathjaya I, II, and III in September 1996. The town was re-captured by the LTTE in September 1998, and has since been designated as the LTTE’s "administrative and political headquarters." Kilinochchi town, which lies about 334 kilometres (255 miles) north of capital Colombo, is where almost all decisions were made by the exclusive command of the outfit’s leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and his top-rung leadership. The LTTE ‘courts’, ‘Police’ Headquarters, ‘Eelam’ banks, and the luxurious LTTE Peace Secretariat complex, all operated from Kilinochchi, lying along the main supply route (A-9).
That the victory surprised even the Government is evident from its own admission, on December 25, 2008, that there would be a delay in capturing Kilinochchi, owing to significant numbers of civilians still remaining in the outskirts of the town. Defence spokesperson, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, had claimed that 150,000 civilians still remained trapped by the LTTE in and around Kilinochchi. "The President is very watchful that no civilian is hurt in the ongoing battle. This is why the crawl to Kilinochchi by the Security Forces has been very slow." However, on December 29, 2008, Rambukwella declared that the SLA would arrest the LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran and bring him to the courts before February 7, 2009. Speaking at a function in Kandy, Rambukwella said Prabhakaran was hiding in a bunker at a location limited only to a small area in Wanni. The Minister claimed Government troops would overrun Prabhakaran’s bunker in the immediate future. The hopes of speedy victory were rekindled further on January 1, 2009, when Lt. Fonseka told Daily News that the fall of Kilinochchi was imminent within the succeeding 48 hours, as the Security Forces (SFs) had already entered Kilinochchi Town from the South, West and North: "The Task Force I troops are operating just one kilometre short of Kilinochchi railway station…" he had stated then, "They have advanced beyond the Iranamadu Junction and are fast advancing towards the heart of Kilinochchi. There are signs that the LTTE will flee from Kilinochchi as troops advance towards the heart of Kilinochchi. But troops will have to engage in fierce battles in areas such as Ramanathapuram in the east of Kilinochchi."
The fall of Kilinochchi is the more momentous in view of the LTTE’s repeated claim that it had executed tactical retreats on other battlefronts only to give a ‘befitting reply’ to troops at Kilinochchi. As recently as on December 30, 2008, the leader of the LTTE political wing, Balasingham Nadesan, in an e-mail sent to Associated Press claimed, "We have made several strategic withdrawals in order to save the lives of our people and maintain the strength of our forces. When the time and place is conducive, we will regain the land we have lost."
Soon after the capture of Kilinochchi, the defence ministry stated, "There is no option available for the LTTE rebels other than to flee towards the jungle patches in Puthukuduiruppu and Vishvamadu in the East of Iranamadu Tank as troops aggressively advanced towards the heart of Kilinochchi on all fronts." Unsurprisingly, speaking at a special function in Colombo to announce the military success in Kilinochchi, Lt. Gen. Fonseka disclosed that over 1,500 LTTE militants had been killed during the preceding two months in the north, that small numbers of LTTE cadres were concentrated in Wanni, and that the SFs could neutralise them in the near future.
There has been no pause in SLA operations after Kilinochchi, and troops have moved inexorably into Mullaitivu, where many envisage another intractable phase of the war in this densely forested region. It is useful, however, to recall, here, that some commentators had earlier spoken about the LTTE’s ‘invincibility’ in the jungles of Thoppigala, a large forest with 700 square kilometres, where the rebels took shelter after being evacuated from the entire Eastern Province in 2007. The LTTE was, however, quickly pushed out of this forest haven at that time.
With a total forest area of about 1,712 square kilometres out of a total land area of 2,415 square kilometres (70.9 per cent) the Mullaitivu District has proven an ideal hiding place for the LTTE, alongside the Elephant Pass in Jaffna, to carry its guerrilla war in the past. With SLA Forces now pushing forward at the Elephant Pass as well – in an effort that would restore the road link between Jaffna and the Sri Lankan mainland, it is now only a matter of time before the LTTE succumbs in Mullaitivu as well.
Government Forces have already made deep inroads into the Mullaitivu District and the SLA’s strongest Force, the 59th Division, is pressing forward at the Welioya Front. By January 3, 2009, troops had advanced towards the LTTE’s military headquarters in Mullaitivu. "The battle for Mullaitivu has already begun," the Ministry stated, disclosing that Government troops were also moving further north of their positions in Kilinochchi in a bid to retake the strategically vital Elephant Pass, which was lost to the LTTE’s Operation Ceaseless Waves (Oyatha Alaigal) in April 2000. Elephant Pass lies at the entrance to the Jaffna Peninsula, which the SF’s wrested from rebel control in 1995. However, with most of the Kilinochchi populace having been forced to move eastward towards Mullaitivu even before the ‘Eelam war-IV’ began, it may be difficult for the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) to target LTTE forces. The Government’s ‘zero civilian casualty policy’ may hamper air support to ground troops, delaying the inevitable outcome somewhat.
While it is now evident that the LTTE is a progressively spent force as far as conventional war is concerned, and that it will be nigh impossible for them to regain the swathes of land they have lost, the outfit retains a significant residual menace. Even if the rebels are completely routed at Mullaitivu, the possibility of a terrorist and guerrilla hit and run campaign would remain, unless the top leadership is entirely neutralised. Balasingham Nadesan thus warns, "We are used to all types of wars… we will struggle on with the help of our people until their political aspirations are met." The seriousness of this admonition was demonstrated shortly after Mahinda Rajapakse’s victorious speech, when an LTTE suicide bomber blew himself up, killing three persons, including two Airmen, and injuring 37 others at the entrance to the Air Force camp at Slave Island in Colombo on January 2, 2009. Crucially, the Eastern Province may once again become the target of escalating LTTE violence and refuge. The province has already witnessed a rising graph of attacks, with as many as 232 reported incidents in 2008, in which 198 persons (69 civilians, 36 SFs and 93 militants) were killed (ICM database). The Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, itself witnessed 109 killings in 2008 (85 civilians and five SFs).
For Colombo, this is not a time either for triumphalism or for haste, but rather, for the steady consolidation of the victories of the recent past, and for the accommodation of legitimate Tamil aspirations within the Sri Lankan constitutional order, with no concessions whatsoever to terrorists.
For the world, there are crucial lessons that can be learned from the successive reverses inflicted on the LTTE by the SLA. The most significant of these is that terrorism can, indeed, must, be defeated, if political solutions are to apply. Colombo’s long history of defeats was a consequence, not of the invincibility or intractability of the LTTE, but of the indecision, the weakness or the lack of realism in earlier political leaderships, which failed to make an objective assessment of the LTTE’s capacities, and to acquire and deploy the resources to neutralize these in the past, relying, instead, on what was seen to be the ‘easier’ option of negotiating with the terrorists. The lesson the world can learn from Sri Lanka – as indeed, from other theatres of successful counter-terrorism in South Asia – is that while the war against terror will never be easy, it will remain a necessity in ages to come; cultures that seek the ‘ease’ of political and negotiated solutions without addressing the challenge of the coercive and disruptive dominance of terrorist groups will, consequently, be condemned to the greater suffering of relentless victimhood.
2009 has begun with a startling victory at Kilinochchi. With the necessary political and military will, this may well be the year that a 33 year old terror is finally extinguished in Sri Lanka.
[South Asian Intelligence Review]
Troops capture Mullaitivu even as 147 civilians among 329 persons killed during intensified fighting in North-East: Troops captured Mullaitivu, as 147 civilians, 105 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants and 77 soldiers were among 329 persons killed during the week in North and East Sri Lanka. The pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net quoted the outfit’s sources as saying that 35 Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers were killed and 60 others wounded when the outfit’s defensive formations clashed with the SLA for 24 hours in the North-western frontier of the LTTE-held territory till the SLA was pushed back from Neththaliyaattuppaalam on January 19. Dead bodies of 38 LTTE militants, including 21 female cadres, which had not been accepted by the outfit, were buried in the Vavuniya cemetery in the afternoon of January 20, following a court order received by the Police on January 19. Security Forces (SFs) attacked LTTE camps in the areas east of Puthukkudiyiruppu and northeast and southeast of Mulliyaweli in the Mullaitivu District, inflicting heavy casualties on the militants on January 20. SFs later recovered the dead bodies of nine militants. At least 100 persons were killed in artillery exchanges between military and the LTTE over the preceding week, an unnamed Government official working in the area controlled by the LTTE said on January 22. Mullaitivu District Government Agent Emelda Sukumar told Reuters, "Around 30 people died in the morning today. Personally I saw that nearly 100 people have died from Saturday [January 17] up to today. More than 300 have been injured," Tamil Net, however, claimed that 66 civilians were killed and more than 200 wounded in SLA artillery fire over the preceding three days in Mullaitivu. LTTE sources claimed, further, on January 22, that 40 SLA soldiers were killed and 70 injured as the LTTE’s defensive formations put up stiff resistance against the SLA as it attempted to advance through Kallaaru in the North-western front. Meanwhile, 11 dead bodies of the militants were handed over to the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Vavuniya (ICRC) and they were taken to un-cleared areas (areas not under Government control) to be delivered to the LTTE by the ICRC. 12 civilians were killed and 87 injured as the SLA continued artillery attacks on the Safety Zone in the Udaiyaarkaddu area of Mullaitivu District on January 24.
The SFs, meanwhile, achieved a major success on January 25, when troops captured Mullaitivu Town, the LTTE’s most prestigious military stronghold on the Eastern coast. The troops entered Mullaitivu by 1 pm (SLST). Earlier, on January 23, the 59th Division made a major breakthrough in their battle to capture Mullaitivu with the capture of the earth bund (embankment) located four kilometers south of Mullaitivu centre. Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka announced this victory to the nation in the evening in a special message. Military officials disclosed, "The Tiger stronghold of Mullaitivu fell under Security Forces control after 13 years, with the 59 Division troops under the command of Brigadier Nandana Udawatta entering this strategic stronghold last afternoon." Mullaitivu was among the most prestigious and strategically important townships, comparable to Kilinochchi, Paranthan, Pooneryn and Elephant Pass, which the LTTE had controlled during the two-and-a-half decades long conflict. The Army last controlled the isolated Army camp located in Mullaitivu in 1996, and it was overrun by the LTTE on July 18, 1996.
At least 22 civilians were killed and 60 others wounded as the SLA continued artillery shelling in various localities, including Chuthanthirapuram, Udaiyaarkaddu and Thearaavil in Vishvamadu, inside the 'safety zone' throughout January 25, Tami Net claimed. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, January 20-26, 2009.
81 LTTE militants and 52 soldiers among 159 persons killed: 81 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 52 soldiers and 26 civilians were among 159 persons killed during the week in intensified fighting in the North and East. After a two-day battle, troops of the 59th Division re-captured the Government hospital and its surrounding area at Tanniyuttu town in the Mullaitivu District on January 12, 2009. The hospital was used by the militants as a key strategic point to attack the Security Forces (SFs) and also treat their injured cadres. SFs captured the entire Jaffna Peninsula on January 14 by overrunning the last remaining LTTE stronghold of Chundikulam. The military said troops of the 55th Division captured Chundikulam, which lies parallel to the east of the Elephant Pass isthmus in Jaffna Peninsula. The Army destroyed a LTTE boat with artillery fire, killing several militants, including a senior Sea Tiger (cadre of the sea wing of the LTTE) leader, identified as "Lieutenant Colonel" Thiru. Defence officials said the militants used Chundikulam to launch major Sea Tiger operations and, following the capture, troops have located several Sea Tiger bases in the area. In addition, SFs advancing along the Paranthan-Mullaitivu (A-35) Road on the West-East axis, reached the outskirts of Dharmapuram. On the same evening, the troops captured an LTTE airstrip (1,000 metres long and 50 metres wide) located east of the Iranamadu Tank running through Olumaduwai. Meanwhile, following Court approval, the Sri Lanka Government buried 42 unclaimed dead bodies of LTTE militants, which were lying at the Vavuniya Hospital for some time. The International Committee of Red Cross in Sri Lanka was unable to hand over bodies of the militants killed in recent battles, as no one has come forward to accept them. Sources said another 15 unclaimed militants’ bodies are presently lying at the Mannar Hospital. On January 15, SFs captured Dharmapuram, one of the biggest LTTE townships on the Paranthan-Mullaitivu (A-35) Road and about 15 kilometres to the east of the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) Highway, in Mullaitivu District. In addition, an airstrip around 1,100 metres long and 40 metres wide inside the dense Iranamadu jungle was also captured.
The pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net claimed that the advance by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) from Tharmapuram on three fronts was repulsed by LTTE cadres, who killed 51 SLA soldiers and injured 150 others in the confrontation, which started in the morning of January 15. The Website also claimed that the SLA artillery attack in the Kaiveali, Koampaavil and Vishvamadu areas killed five civilians, including a 14-year-old girl, and injured six others. Further, SFs in the morning of January 16 took full control of the entire perimeter of the Iranamadu Tank bund (embankment) covering about three kilometres in the Kilinochchi District. In addition, on January 16, troops captured the LTTE’s sixth airstrip at the eastern edge of Iranamadu tank in the Mullaitivu jungles. Troops also captured the Ramanathpuram area, a large, heavily built up township in the east of Kilinochchi District, in the morning of January 17. After being evicted from Iranamadu and Kilinochchi, the militants withdrew to Ramanathpuram, where they had already created a fortress, constructing strong bunkers, training areas, command and logistic points and administrative bases. Meanwhile, during fierce clashes, the SFs killed an unspecified number of militants in the area about seven kilometres north of the Muthuiyankaddukulam Tank in Mullaitivu District. During subsequent search operation, the troops recovered dead bodies of 19 militants. At least 18 civilians had been confirmed killed in SLA’s artillery fire within the preceding 24 hours, till 3:00 pm (SLST) on January 18, in several villages of Mullaitivu District and the outer suburbs of Kilinochchi District to the east of the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) Highway, claimed Tamil Net, adding further that, at least 42 civilians were also wounded on January 18 alone. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, January 13-19, 2009.
Troops capture more areas, including Elephant Pass, as fighting intensifies in North: Security Forces on January 5, 2009, reached Elephant Pass with the 58th Division troops capturing the entire southern part of the Pass and further advancing towards the North to capture it entirely, Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka said. The troops also captured Thamilamadam, the causeway to the south of the Elephant Pass. According to military sources, 10 soldiers were killed and 23 others injured in the clashes in Elephant Pass and Murusamudai areas. Troops operating in the Jaffna front captured the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) FDLs (Forward Defence Lines) in Kilali and Muhamalai, some 600 metres ahead of the Security Force’s FDLs on January 6, Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. In addition, Task Force-III troops operating in the East of Olumaduwai and Task Force-IV troops operating in the Oddusudan area took control of the Mankulam-Oddusudan (A-34) road. The Military on January 7 claimed to have captured Murasumoddai town on the way to Mullaitivu, amid stiff resistance from the LTTE. In addition, troops advancing from the north and south of Elephant Pass entrapped the militants on the thin strip of land connecting the mainland to Jaffna Peninsula, inflicting heavy casualties upon the militants. The Defence Ministry said troops destroyed several key LTTE command centers, including the Kilaly’s ECHO-9 Base, Muhamalai area command bases GOLF-7, ECHO-3 and DELTA-2 and set ablaze a huge LTTE ammunition dump. The military also said the militants are now confined to an area of 600 square kilometres. In addition, troops advancing from the Kilali and Muhamalai FDLs captured Palali, the main township south of Muhamalai and Kilali FDLs, in the afternoon of January 8. Military sources also said the LTTE had shifted their artillery guns from Jaffna Peninsula to the south, expecting a troop advance. Further, the troops also captured Sorampattu, about five kilometres southeast of Palali, in the same evening. Meanwhile, Murasumoddai town, on the Paranthan–Mullaitivu (A-35) road and about 5.5 kilometres to the east of Paranthan town, was captured by troops of the 58th Division. An unspecified number of militants were killed during clashes that erupted in the area since the evening of January 7.
Security Forces (SFs) captured the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) highway connecting the south with the Jaffna peninsula after 23 years. Troops of the 53rd, 55th, and 58th Divisions captured the strategically important Elephant Pass by the afternoon of January 9, President Mahinda Rajapakse announced. The President said the SFs are now able to connect people in Dondra Head with people in Point Pedro after 23 years, in an environment sans terrorism, making a bridge of peace between the South and North. The 53rd and 55th Divisions, advancing from Muhamalai and Kilali linked up with troops of the 58th Division, who had taken control of Elephant Pass South by January 6. The 58th Division cleared the path for the 53rd and 55th Division to move towards the south of Jaffna Peninsula compelling the LTTE to vacate many of the areas they held in the southern part of the Peninsula. With the capture of Elephant Pass, the troops were able to clear a 96 kilometre stretch of the A-9 road between Omanthai and Muhamalai after two years of military operations in Wanni and in the north. Military officials said this is the first time the A-9 road is open till Jaffna under military control after the SFs lost control of it after the departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in the late 1980s. Meanwhile, SFs recovered the dead bodies of 12 militants along with five T-56 weapons, one General Purpose Machine Gun and two I-com radio sets from the Murusamoddai area of Mullaitivu District.
Seven Tamil civilians, including two children, on their way to cleared areas (area under Government control) seeking protection, were shot dead by LTTE militants in the morning of January 10. According to military sources, the civilians from Murusamoddai and Kanchipuram areas were on their way to SF controlled areas when they were attacked by the militants deployed on possible escaping routes to prevent civilian movement. Two children, two females and three males are among the victims. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, January 6-12, 2009.
Government bans LTTE: The Government said, on January 7, 2009, that the Cabinet had taken a unanimous decision, in accordance with a memorandum submitted by President Mahinda Rajapakse, to proscribe the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which continued to engage in blatant human rights violations. The Proclamation of the President proscribing the LTTE under Chapter 40 of the Public Security Ordinance gave several reasons for the proscription. They included, inter alia, committing acts of terrorism and other forms of violence, with the aim of establishing a separate state of Tamil Eelam in the Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka; engaging in armed conflict with the Security Forces and the Police; assassination of persons in high political office, members of the security forces and the Police and civilians; causing death and destruction to lives and property; threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic; failure to eschew violence, lay down arms and, surrender and participate in the democratic process; keeping civilians in the North and East as hostages and using them as human shields; preventing humanitarian relief from reaching the population; illegal procurement and smuggling of arms, using child soldiers, and adversely affecting international and regional peace. The LTTE was first banned in 1998. The ban was lifted in September 2002, ahead of the peace talks following the Cease-fire Agreement. Daily News, January 8, 2009.
Troops capture Kilinochchi: On January 2, 2009, the Sri Lanka Army captured Kilinochchi, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) political and administrative headquarters. The troops launched simultaneous attacks from three directions in Paranthan, Iranamadu and Adampan before capturing the town in the early hours of January 2. Kilinochchi town, which lies about 334 kilometres (255 miles) north of capital Colombo, remained the LTTE’s most strategic logistics base, and command centre. Kilinochchi was the de facto capital of ‘Eelam’ lying on the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) main supply route. The Defence Ministry said that troops of the 57th Division entered the highly defended stronghold from the southern and south-western boundaries, while Task Force 1 troops marched in from the north and northwest. The Army had already taken the Jaffna-Kandy A-9 highway on the Omanthai-Paranthan stretch. The military had crossed into Kilinochchi District on July 31, 2008, and had since been engaged in clashes with the LTTE.
The pro-LTTE Tamil Net claimed that the rebels had put up heavy resistance, but kept their casualties low in the defensive fighting. "It is the first time after a decade the Sri Lankan forces have been able to take control of the town after several months of fierce fighting that has claimed hundreds of combatants on both sides of the war," Tamil Net reported. In a special address to the nation on state television hours after the troops captured Kilinochchi, President Mahinda Rajapakse described the action as a "major victory in the world’s battle against terrorism." He reiterated the resolve of his Government to continue the fight till the LTTE was "fully and finally defeated," and asserted his statement was "the final message to the LTTE, to lay down their arms and surrender." Stating that the capture of Kilinochchi should not be viewed as the victory of one community or region over the other, Rajapaksa maintained that it was a dream of all Sri Lankans who are opposed to separatism, racism and terrorism and strived for peace, freedom and democracy. He said his Government would continue the fight against the LTTE until the "final act of this false Eelam struggle is played to its finish" in the small jungle territory in Mullaithivu where it is confined to today.Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; The Hindu; Colombo Page, January 3, 2009.
156 LTTE militants and 17 soldiers killed as troops capture more areas in North: Task Force-I troops captured Kamalakadukulam, about two kilometres west of Paranthan, and Thadduwankoddy, in the north west of Paranthan, in Kilinochchi District on December 30, 2008. "Intercepted radio transmissions confirmed that 20 Tiger cadres were killed and 30 wounded in the fierce battles that erupted from early hours of yesterday," sources said. More than 50 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants were killed and over 60 others injured by the Security Forces (SFs) during clashes when Task Force-I troops entered Paranthan town on December 31, after cutting off the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) road from the north of Paranthan junction, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka said. On the same day, troops of the 59th Division confronted LTTE militants to the west of Mulliyavalai in the Mullaitivu District and subsequently recovered the dead bodies of 15 militants. 11 soldiers were injured during these clashes. Further, Army troops advancing towards Kilinochchi town attacked more LTTE camps in the east and west of Iranamadu, north and south of Adampan and Paranthan areas, inflicting an unspecified number of casualties. In subsequent search operations, troops recovered the dead bodies of seven militants. Troops advancing towards Kilinochchi captured the key LTTE garrison of Paranthan in the morning of January 1, 2009, following hours of fighting that killed over 50 militants. Defence authorities said the battle for Paranthan began two days ago when the troops’ armour, artillery and infantry battalions launched a concerted assault on the militants holed up in the strategic town. In addition, the troops captured Iranamadu Junction, about six kilometres south of the Kilinochchi town centre, opening the route to the Iranamadu town. SFs operating in the East of the A-9 road captured another key junction town, Oddusudan, on the Mankulam – Mullaitivu A-34 Road, taking full control of the Oddusudan – Nedunkerni – Puliyankulam road. "Security Forces killed at least 10 Tiger cadres as they attacked a tractor transporting Tiger cadres and several other vehicles," a military official said. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; The Hindu; Colombo Page, December 30, 2008-January 5, 2009.
LTTE suicide bomber kills three persons at Air Force camp in Colombo: A Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber blew himself up, killing three persons, including two Airmen, and injuring 37 others at the entrance to the Air Force camp in Slave Island in Colombo at around 5.15 PM (SLST) on January 2, 2009. An accomplice of the suicide bomber has been arrested. Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said, "It was a rush hour and the road was blocked due to traffic congestion, when the LTTE suicide cadre was dropped by his accomplice on a motorcycle. The suicide bomber crossed the road and approached the Air Force camp entrance." A passenger bus plying from Moratuwa to Pettah was also caught up in the explosion and was damaged. Several passengers onboard the bus are reported to have sustained injuries. Daily News, January 3, 2009.
[South Asian Intelligence Review]
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