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Tiger administrative structure hit


Mi-24 helicopter gunships engage Tiger targets Photo courtesy Army (inset) Tigers in the forward lines in Murugandi, south of Kilinochchi Photo Courtesy LTTE and Civilians moving out of Kilinochchi

By Amantha Perera

Two events, separated by just a day dominated last week. The October 6 assassination of former Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army, Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera to yet another suicide attack in Anuradhapura, followed a day later by the swearing in of one time Tiger eastern military commander Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan alias Karuna as an MP. They created heated debates and emotional responses.

But far from the glare of the headlines, government troops and Tigers fought pitched battles on the southern boundaries of Kilinochchi. One side giving its best to dislodge the other well entrenched and determined to hold on to its priced real estate in the Wanni.

It has been over a month,  September 2 to be precise, since the Tigers indicated a shift in battle field strategy. On September 1 night heavy fighting broke out between Vannerikulam east of Nachchikudah on the coast  and Akkarayankulam, south west  of Kilinochchi.  Troops moving north on three locations between the 8th and 10th mile posts on the Vennerikulam and Akkarayankulam Road met stiff resistance. The fighting continued well into the next day morning and if figures quoted by both sides are correct over 100 combatants died.

Till then the Tigers had not pitched in heavily to thwart advancing forces on the south western Wanni flank at any cost. In fact TamilNet in its reporting of the September 1-2 fighting said - "The fighting in the Wanni has intensified as the Tigers, who avoided stiff confrontations against the advancing Sri Lankan Army for a while, stepped up defensive engagement on Monday (September 1)."

Critical  phase of Eelam War IV

The fighting  and the air attack on August 26 on the Trincomalee naval base have been taken by many now as the opening of the current critical  phase of Eelam War IV, when the Tigers indicated that the battles had reached a decisive pitch. Even before the August 26 air attack, there were indications that the Tigers were placing more than passing emphasis on August 26. It was the date given to civilians in the Wanni to finish construction of bunkers and other fortifications in the Wanni.

Much has changed in the Wanni since - especially in Kilinochchi. The once bustling township is a deserted town. Only the ICRC remains in the Wanni and it too has shifted its offices to Puthukudyiruppu or PTK. There are no UN or other INGOs permanently present in the Wanni, and instead there are over 220,000 IDPs now converging near PTK. Fighting has continued unabated on the southern Wanni flank, especially in the ring from  Kokavil (on the A9), through Murugandi, to Akkarayan into Vannerikulam to the west.

Battlefield reports have indicated that the Tigers have built zig zagging earth bunds in the areas with heavy fortifications. Some of the trenches have been dug using the tank bunds at Vannerikulam and Akkarayankulam tanks and small streams that flow in the area.  Similar trenches that have fallen into the hands of the government forces have been over 10 feet deep and snaking across the terrain and all these have been newly dug.

The Tigers have put in battle hardened units like Imran Pandiyan and Charles Anthony, and experienced commanders like Theeban, Bhanu and Lawrence have been reported in areas south of Kilinochchi where fighting has been reported.

Last week on October 8, heavy fighting broke out between Murugandi and Vannerikulam.  The Tigers said that their cadres had pushed back advancing troops on different fronts and had killed 60, a figure that was rejected by the army.

Casualties

The army said that it killed at least 40 Tigers during fighting  in the Wanni on October 8. "The most number of terrorists fell dead when troops were confronting them in Wanniyakulam, north of Pandiveddikulam area in the Kilinochchi District. During that confrontation, 21 terrorists lost their lives following clashes. One radio set, 17 hand grenades and several other LTTE items were captured afterwards. Terrorists' communications said several more were injured in the fire directed by the troops, in addition to the number dead," it said.

As fighting intensified, artillery duels and air raids have also increased, especially targeting Kilinochchi. Two weeks back on three consecutive days from October 1, important Tiger offices including the Peace Secretariat, the Political Headquarters, offices frequented by Pottu Amman and Balasingham Nadesan were targeted by air raids. With civilians deserting Kilinochchi the targeting of known as well as secret Tiger infrastructure appears to be aimed at limiting the ability of the Tigers to use the town.

"The recent string of air strikes on LTTE nerve centres located in the heart of Kilinochchi would soon create a huge problem for the LTTE in maintaining the outfit under a centralised command and control mechanism," the Defence Ministry said.

The Tigers said that the Sri Lankan military had not targeted Tiger administrative structures for fear of reprisal attacks in the past but had changed tactics and begun a series of air attacks targeting its administrative structures.

Concerted aerial attacks

"Starting from Wednesday, October 1, for three consecutive days, there were concerted aerial attacks on the civil administrative structures of the de-facto Tamileelam government. A parallel artillery firing into the heart of the Kilinochchi town was also carried out at the same time.

"On Wednesday (October 1), the Tamileelam administrative centre for coordinating all civil services was bombed. Also destroyed was a private outfit KNC, that delivers computer services to customers," the Tigers said. 

The Tigers also said that in three days the offices that were bombed were  the coordinating center for all civil administrative services,  head office of the political wing,  the Peace Secretariat,  the head office of the Tamileelam police, the TRO store, KNC the outfit for computer services,  the district office of CWDR and a  leading women's organisation in Wanni adding that they were not military establishments.

However the government has maintained that the Tigers use these establishments for military purposes and that the raids were carried out based on precise and timely intelligence reports. 

The air strikes have also now targeted locations north of Kilinochchi. On October 10 morning between 6.30 and 7.00 a.m, three air strikes targeted Tiger camps near Paranthan Junction, located north of Kilinochchi.

Important logistical point

Paranthan Junction is one of the most important logistical points in the northern Wanni - roads from Pooneryn, Elephant Pass, Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu meet at Paranthan. Though there are other roads especially linking Mulaithivu and Kilinochchi, the best road is the Paranthan-Mulaithivu highway. It is on this highway that most of the displaced IDPs remain now. Earlier in the week air raids had targeted Tiger locations at PTK.

The Tigers however, also showed that they were trying to destabilise the Mahinda Rajapakse administration by targeting important ministers like the abortive attack on Minister Maithripala Sirisena's convoy last week.

Not only government politicians but those opposed to it also are on the hit list.

In fact there were  personal communications to late Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera to be more watchful and that he was a prime target on the Tiger hit list. Rohan Gunaratna, the Singapore based Sri Lankan terrorism expert told The Sunday Leader last week that he had personally communicated the threat levels to the late General, his wife and UNP activist Rosy Senanayake. The last warning was made in September.

"Both in June 23, 2008 in writing and September 2008 over the phone, I informed General Janaka that the LTTE was planning to kill him. In September 2008, I also told it to his wife, his security chief, and to RosySenanayake."

"The General told me that he was committed to a path to political leadership to bring peace back to Sri Lanka. He told me that the government was not providing him protection despite repeated requests for better security. The General knew the threat but for his country he was willing to sacrifice his life," he said.

Second food convoy delayed

By Amantha Perera and Arthur Wamanan

There is hardly anyone in Kilinochchi Town. The town's residents, those who sought shelter in and around it - everyone except the Tigers who are staying put to thwart the Army onslaught on the town, appear to have deserted it.

The Kilinochchi Hospital was functioning, but some staff had moved towards Puthukudyiruppu, north east of Kilinochchi. Hospital staff say that a few people have come in search of treatment compelling staff members to remain. Civilians tend to frequent the town during daylight if there is no heavy shelling.

Two weeks back, the Director of the Hospital, Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi said that he was going to write to the Ministry of Health in Colombo informing that the hospital would be moved. The same was true of the Government Agent's offices that were to be relocated. On August 31, there were only 8,800 IDPs in Kilinochchi according to UN OCHA figures. Twenty six days later, by September 26, the figure was 140,000 and rising.

Shelling and air attacks

"Nearly all of Kilinochchi's residents are reported to have vacated to Mulaithivu District due to shelling and air attacks in the heart of the district," the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) said last week. During the first week of October the Tiger administrative network in Kilinochchi was specifically targeted by air raids.

Between October 1 and 3, a series of strikes targeted the Peace Secretariat, the main political office and several other buildings all situated near the town. In fact the Peace Secretariat and the political office are located in a by lane off the A9 just beyond the Kilinochchi town centre. The government said that the offices were used for military purposes by the Tigers.

Despite government pledges that there will be weekly food convoys into the Wanni the second convoy has been delayed. The convoy was due to travel in the latter half of  last week, but has now been delayed till this week.

Stringent security checks

Commissioner of Essential Services S. B. Divaratne told The Sunday Leader that there were some delays due to stringent security checks. But authorities were planing to send the convoy yesterday.

After  51 trucks moved into the Wanni on October 2, the government  pledged to keep supplies moving.

"The GoSL reported that it plans to facilitate weekly convoys of humanitarian food relief and also build up a buffer stock in the Wanni. It is also reported that 15-20 lorries are sent daily, which include supplies (food, clothing, animal feed, fertiliser, kerosene) for the general Wanni population.

"The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has indicated that it will facilitate the return of the empty trucks through Omanthai to support a regular flow of humanitarian supplies. The Ministry of Resettlement reports that it is providing hot meals for newly displaced IDPs for a period of one week, allocating Rs. 36 million for Mulaithivu, Rs. 9 million for Kilinochchi and Rs. 3 million for Vavuniya over the last three months.

To ensure supplies

"For IDPs displaced prior to 2006, the Ministry has provided rice, flour and sugar worth Rs. 51.2 million for the Kilinochchi District, Rs. 56 million for the Mulaithivu District and Rs. 8 million for Vavuniya District for the past three months. A further allocation to ensure supplies until December will be dispatched before October 15," IASC reported.

The first convoy carried 650 metric tonnes of food taking the new route east of Mankulam. It had reached the IDPs without an incident.

"A convoy carrying 655 MT of food crossed the Omanthai border on  October 2, to provide food assistance to approximately 200,000 civilians displaced between Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu. The convoy consisted of rice - 279.75 MT, dhal - 38.0 MT, wheat flour -304.5 MT and vegetable oil - 38.389 MT and will provide for six days of rations.

"Food will be distributed in four locations (Puthukudyiruppu (PTK), Kandavalai, Dharmapuram and Mulliyavalai) to the east of Kilinochchi, where the majority of displaced civilians are now concentrated. The convoy was accompanied by seven UN international staff, who will monitor the initial distribution.

"The convoy was reduced from 60 trucks to 51 after explosives and other illicit items were discovered on government-provided trucks that were due to join the convoy. Plans are underway to dispatch another convoy next week. As of  October 3, 29 trucks have been off-loaded and the concurrent distribution of food is in progress," IASC said early last week.


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