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News

September 16,  2007  Volume 14, Issue 13


Focus

Spotlight

Letters

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Now

Fashion

Editorial

Defence

 

         

Sri Krishna guides Navy to big kill


Sequence of pictures showing the sinking of the
second ship which carried the name Seishin

By Amantha Perera

A straight line from Mantota on the northwestern waters to Kokkuthuduwai in the northeastern coast would demarcate the southern line of control. The latest maps made available by the government indicates Tiger control is now limited from Mantota-Kokkuthuduwai line up to Muhamalai in the north after the latest operation launched south of Mantota to regain areas under Tiger rule.

The operation to gain areas from Silavathurai and beyond was swift, and completed without much hassle. The Tigers did not put up a fight, and within three days of the operation being launched government troops had reached Mullikulam that lies 40 km south of the Mantota-Talliady junction on the Puttalam-Mannar District border. The village also lies on the border of the Wilpattu National Park.

Military gain

The Tigers said that they did not have any major military installations or cadres in the area. But by gaining control of the coast from Kudiramalai Point that lies just south of Mullikulam the military can now significantly hold its own in the sea and fishing routes that lie west of the newly gained areas.

Though not as active as the eastern and northeastern waters, several attacks have been launched on naval craft from the area.

Earlier when troops were moving towards Silavathurai, the Catholic Bishop of Mannar Rev. Rayappu Joseph wrote to President Mahinda Rajapakse informing him that 850 people from 175 families were trapped in Mullikulam without food and water. He said that they needed to be evacuated immediately. By September 9, the families had started to move out of Mullikulam towards Silavathurai, and from there to the IDP sites at Nanattan and Murukan. According to relief workers, during last weekend 800 people had arrived.

When the civilians in Mullikulam began to move north there were concerns about the safety of the road after a claymore attack on September 1 morning had claimed the lives of 12 civilians including three children travelling in a van.

Though initial reports had said that the victims had been travelling northwards toward Arippu from Silavathurai, according to the Bishop’s letter they were moving south and were caught in the attack between Silavathurai and Mullikulam. No major incidents involving civilians were reported in the area thereafter.

IDP count goes up

Seven days after the fighting began the IDP count in Mannar had risen by over 6000 according to the government agent’s office. "The GA office reports that there are 4,109 families (15,820 persons) displaced in the Mannar District and 2,517 families (8,682 persons) displaced in the Vavuniya District as of September 6," the Inter Agency Standing Committee said on September 6.

A week earlier the IDP count in Mannar had been slightly above 9,000. Government officials and relief agencies said that the supplies had reached the displaced soon after their arrival in areas north of Silavathurai. However there were concerns, especially over water and sanitation. Two of the larger sites are schools at Nanattan and Murukan. Last week some of the refugees were being shifted to another site housed at the location of a disused mill where local aid workers said that around 1000 persons could be housed in tents.

Harvest due

A bigger problem would be supplies at the Uliyankulam crossover point that lies north of the IDP sites as transporting any supplies through it has been ruled out for the time being. The two other roads — the A14 and A30 linking Mannar with Medawachchiya and Vavuniya are also prone to attacks. Fighting was reported north of the A30 last week as well as at Periyatampanai.

According to the SLMM the IDPs are anxious to get back to their homes. "The IDPs were in a hurry to return because of the paddy harvest, and missing it would have long-term consequences. However, it was still not decided as to when the people could return," the SLMM said last week.

While the army was clearing the areas south of Mannar, the navy was getting ready for bigger things. It had deployed a flotilla off the southern coast comprising five crafts.

The navy ‘kill’

On May 17, the Maldivian Navy intercepted and sunk the hijacked Indian fishing trawler Sri Krishna in seas around 1200 km southeast of the southern coast. It was close to this area that the naval crafts were hovering. The Maldivians had fired at the craft after it had fired at a Maldivian fishing vessel.

Four men were taken into custody. Last week in the same sea area, the Sri Lanka Navy made a far bigger kill.

Between 7.45 a.m. on September 10 and 2.30 a.m. the next morning, the navy achieved its biggest ever success against Tiger gun running when it sunk three deep sea vessels suspected of ferrying arms for the Tigers. The navy said that it had information on the vessels for two weeks and had been lying in wait in the seas around 400 km from the southern coast initially, and then had moved another 400 km into deeper seas.

The area where the detections were made was used by the vessels to transfer the cargo to smaller fishing vessels that would later ferry it to the Mullaitivu coast. The Sri Krishna significance comes here.

"Sri Krishna, one such small vessel hijacked by the LTTE from Indian fishermen was used in carrying out similar transactions in mid-sea when it was tracked down and destroyed last May at the same location by the Maldivian defence forces," the navy said last week.

Great haul

The three vessels were carrying three dismantled light aircraft, a speed boat, mortar shells and even a bullet proof vehicle for the use of LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan, according to the navy. Defence Ministry sources indicated that the military establishment was aware of the cargo in detail as the ships had been tracked for a while.

The navy’s version of the saga is that it had been aware of the operational method used by the Tigers to transfer the weapons in mid sea in the area of the attack for at least a year, and two weeks back it received intelligence of the ships.

The move

"The naval operation was launched based on reliable intelligence received two weeks ago about the three LTTE ships smuggling military hardware. Accordingly, SLN naval patrol vessels were kept on high alert to intercept and destroy the enemy vessels. The operation was completed successfully within 24 hours depriving the LTTE, three of their remaining four merchant vessels.

"The SLN vessels initially sailed 200 nautical miles in the exclusive economic zone southeast of Sri Lanka to detect the LTTE ships. They moved further 200 nautical miles in the high seas to sight the vessels which were sailing without a flag and displaying neither a name nor a port of registration. SLN vessels, in accordance with the international rules of engagement, challenged the ships to surrender. Disregarding the warning signals of the navy, LTTE cadres on board the ships had fired at SLN vessels compelling them to retaliate which resulted in the complete destruction and sinking of the three LTTE ships," the navy said in its website soon after the successful mission.

"SLN vessels had first detected two ships on the 10th. The first vessel was sighted around 7.45 a.m. and was sunk around 11.50 a.m. in retaliatory fire. The second ship was detected around 3 p.m. and was fired upon by the navy in retaliation to enemy fire. It sank after a huge explosion on board around 7 p.m. under heavy fire from the navy. The last ship was sighted around 11 p.m. and was pursued by the SLN vessels when it attempted to speed away. Subsequently, it was tracked down and destroyed around 2.30 a.m. on the 11th."

The taste of success

The three vessels were between 45 meters and 75 meters in length and could carry cargo between 1000 to 1500 tonnes. The navy did not hide its excitement over the success. On September 11, Navy Commander Vice Admiral Wasantha Karanangoda himself chaired a press briefing.

The navy says that the Tigers possessed 10 large deep sea going vessels of the type sunk off the Dondra coast and that since 2003 nine have been sunk. Two such vessels were destroyed in 2003 off Mullaitivu and one was sunk in the seas off Kalmunai in 2006. The LTTE lost another off Dondra in February 2007. Two vessels met with the same fate in the seas off Arugam Bay in March 2007.

The effect of the navy’s latest success could only been seen in the coming months with real signs of the Tiger supply network being dented as badly as was predicted last week. That would only be seen in the northern battle fields.

After home guard attack

Army provides security to village

The army has initiated daily patrols at the Veerapuram village west of Vavuniya after villagers complained of harassment by home guards after an August 20 attack nearby that killed four home guards including three women, the SLMM said last week.

"SLA soldiers had initiated daily foot patrols in Veerapuram every morning due to the allegations that home guard soldiers were ready to retaliate against the civilian population for the killing of four colleagues by the LTTE," the monitors said.

On August 20 the attackers had driven towards Veerapuram, and soon after the village was set upon by home guards. An earlier SLMM report said that a village leader in Veerapuram had been killed as well.

"Home guard soldiers were not allowed to participate in patrolling the village. At the sametime, movement between Veerapuram and neighbouring Ulukkulam was restricted and subject to SLA scrutiny. Veerapuram villagers confirmed the daily foot patrols conducted by SLA, and the tension had eased in the village. However, people were still concerned about their safety. SLMM were told by security forces that the LTTE were frequently using the area, and villagers had no other choice but to support them," the monitors said.

The attack on the home guards took place at Ulukkulam.

Last week (on Septemebr 9) another murder was reported from the same village when the beheaded body of a father of four was recovered by police. The military blamed the murder on the Tigers who they said killed the victim as he refused to join the Tigers.


 

 


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