By Amantha Perera
It is the silence that is unbearable,
especially to an audience hunting for every
morsel of information, rumour, and gossip…whatever
that is out there.
And so it was when news came that an air
force raid on a LTTE camp at Kalamadukulam,
just east of the Iranamadu tank had targeted
the biggest cat of all, Vellupillai
Pirapaharan. The raid took place around
11.15 and Air Force Spokesperson, Wing
Commander Andy Wijesuriya said soon
afterwards that the base, code-named —
X-ray, was frequented by the Tiger leader.
The Defence Ministry said that when the
bombing took place there was ‘special
activity’ taking place but did not give
details. That was enough to start the latest
frenzy for information or confirmation.
There was hardly any more information
available from government sources who said
that they were awaiting ground and
intelligence confirmation of the attack. The
pilots had confirmed that the raid was a
success and the target had been destroyed.
But who was inside the buildings that were
hit? That is the million dollar question.
The Tigers as usual held their silence
for over six hours after the attack. It was
late afternoon that there was any reaction,
that too on the pro-Tiger Tamilnet
where Tiger Military Spokesperson, Rasiah
Ilanthirayan rejected claims that
Pirapaharan had been injured in the attack.
Ilanthirayan said that there had been two
raids — one in the morning between 11.10
and 11.35 and another in the early evening
hours between 5.15 and 6 p.m. He gave the
location as Vaddakachchi, which is the
general term for the grama niladari
division that lies immediately north east of
Iranamadhu tank. He said that the raid had
hit a civilian settlement and gave no
The attack was an important one. Of that
there is no doubt. Six aircraft — MiGs and
well as Kfirs took part in the morning
attack, one of the largest in recent times,
and most definitely the largest since the
ceasefire ended on January 16.
The aircraft flew low over the target
site, the practice when a precision hit is
required. The crafts could have carried a
total payload of 24 bombs including bunker
busters, with a maximum overall payload of
24,000 kg. It was a similar bunker buster
bomb that was used in the attack on S. P.
Tamilselvan on November 2. Tamilselvan is
believed to have died due to pressure waves
created by the bombs.
The Tigers had observed radio silence for
a long while after the attack, adding more
to the anxiety over whether Pirapaharan was
in fact, hit. There were reports that said
that shops in Killinochchi were asked to
close. But official reports from the few
relief agencies that are present in
Killinochchi, to their Colombo offices said
that there was nothing unusual after the
attack. However during the raid, most agency
staff had sought the refuge of bunkers
located within their premises.
The X-ray base is located far from
civilian settlements — it is about 10 to
15 km from Killinochchi town and the Tigers
have effected strict access control in the
area due to the presence of the Iranamadhu
air strip and other military facilities.
According to government defence officials it
is one of the many Tiger ‘high security
From about three km east from the famous
Tank View Hotel, where the Tigers housed
visiting diplomats and other special guests
a permanent barrier had been erected on the
road that runs north east of the Iranamadhu
tank and all civilian traffic is blocked.
The area also has thick forest cover. The
location and its secrecy would mean that
little independent details would come out of
the attack other than what the two sides say
officially, and what floats down the
No outsiders are allowed into the Wanni
through Omanthai and the Tigers have
initiated more control, even on
international agencies operating in
Mullaitivu and other areas east of the A9.
Interestingly, the Tigers said that the
air force had bombed the Ambalahama forest
cover in Killinochchi on two consecutive
days — January 23 and 24. One of the
attacks referred to by the Tigers fits the
time frame of the January 23 attack at X-ray
"At 11.30 a.m. and at 5.20 p.m. on
Wednesday and again at 6.45 a.m. on
Thursday, Sri Lankan Air Force dropped more
than 16 bombs over the Ambalahama forest
area damaging around 10 hectares of forest
land," the Tigers said of the bombings.
The defence establishment was abuzz on
January 24 with reports that heavy
casualties were caused by the attack. The
pilots of the jets had confirmed that the
targets were hit. The injured Tiger cadres
from the attack had been rushed to the
Killinoch- chi hospital. The unverified
intel report said that members from the
Imran Pandiyan unit of the Tigers that is
tasked with the personal security of the
Tiger leader was hit in the attack.
The Tigers however rejected all reports
of Air Force successes in the attack as ‘cheap
The absence of Tiger anti-aircraft fire
during the raid has however lead some to
doubt Pirapaha- ran’s presence during the
January 23 raid. The pilots have not
confirmed whether there was anti-aircraft
fire or otherwise. There was also no
indication if the anti-missile systems of
the jets had activated. The presence of
missile batteries automatically sets off the
anti-missile systems in the jets.
The Tigers are believed to place their
truck mounted anti-aircraft guns and the
their precious, yet depleted stock of SAM’s,
to protect the top leaders from air raids.
In fact, six days before last week’s
raid, the Tigers had used anti-aircraft guns
at Air Force jets during a raid over Kanaka-
puram, a grama seva niladari division
that lies just south west of Killinochchi
town on the side of the A9.
The Tigers said that bombs were drooped
100 metres from the Kanaka- puram Maha
Vidyalaya forcing over 700 students to flee
during the morning hours of January 17. Tamilnet
said that Tiger mobile anti-aircraft units
had moved to the area and fired at the
aircraft forcing them to abandon the raids
after two runs. In an earlier report Tamilnet
said that four bombing raids were carried
The Tigers said that the January 17 raid
hit a civilian mechanical workshop. But the
military said that it was a meeting point of
Tiger leaders based on valid intelligence.
Ironically, the Air Force had carried out an
attack on a Tiger mechanical workshop in the
Puddukudirrupu area east of Killinochchi the
day before, on January 16. The Defence
Ministry said that the workshop was
suspected to be manufacturing mortar shells
for the Tigers.
Interestingly, according to the Tamilnet
report the only casualty in the two raids
— a man identified as 32 year old Murugiah
Logeswaran lived in the Red Barna settlement
at Visavamadhu, closer to Puddukudi- ruppu
than Killinochchi. The Tamilnet
report suggested that he died on the January
17 raid, that also forced schools in
Killinochchi to close for a week.
The Selvanagar area, another suburb in
Killinochchi was bombed by the air force on
January 25 morning. Selvanagar lies about 8
km south west of Killinochchi town.
The Tigers said that mobile anti-aircraft
batteries quickly moved to the area and
tragetted the Air Force carfts. They said
two civilians were killed in the attack.
The air raids took the limelight off the
continuing hunt for the attackers who are
behind the civilian massacres in Buttala and
Between January 16 and 22, 48 persons,
including 43 civilians, have been killed in
the attacks that commenced with the deadly
claymore attack on a bus at Helegama, south
of Buttala on January 16 morning.
Thereafter, attacks were reported at
Dabeyaya, southeast of Helegama, Hambegamuwa,
about 15 km north west of Tanamalvila, Galge
and Kitulkotte, about 7 km north of
Additional troops, police and civil
defence forces have been inducted into the
area and by some accounts they number as
much as 4000. Villagers from localities
under threat have also been provided with
firearms. There are plans to get 2000 youth
from the areas under threat to join the
Nadamithra Brigade — part of the Civil
Civilians in the Hambegamuwa area last
week joined hands in the hunt for the
attackers. There are still three persons who
went into the jungles on January 16 looking
for cattle listed missing in the area.
The locations of the attacks are
indicative that the Tigers have spread far
and wide in the areas. The first attacks in
the area were reported in the early evening
of October 15 last year when seven soldiers
were killed in an attack at Talagasmankada
army detachment inside the Yala sanctuary.
Following that the attackers were
believed to have fled into the Kotiyagala
jungles northeast of Yala. They are
operating in several groups individually,
numbering a handful of cadres, the largest
possibly about 15 members, all operating on
Search parties have been pursuing the
attackers in areas south of Helegama and
Dabeyaya, in the Hambegamuwa area and other
outlying jungles. It was while all this was
taking place that the police post at
Aliwanguwa near Kithukotte came under attack
on Janaury 21 night. The post was manned by
officers brought into the area after the
January 16 attack and the Tigers had
attacked four persons, three police officers
and a member from the civil defence force at
the post around 7.40 in the night. They had
lit a bonfire and were gathered around it
when the gunfire erupted.
All except the member from the civil
defence force died in the attack that took
place on the main road that links
Tanamalvila to Wellawaya. Aliwanguwa lies
almost right in the middle between Galge and
Hambegamuwa, leading to suspicion that it
was the same group that carried out the
Galge claymore attack on January 16 and the
Hamabega- muwa massacre a day later. Or else
two groups were operating in the deep
jungles on either side of the highway.
On January 22, two soldiers were injured
when gunfire erupted between troops and
suspected Tiger cadres at Sirinandapura,
southeast of Aliwanguwa.
Sniffer dogs on trail
Soldiers had been searching the jungles
with the use of two sniffer dogs who were on
the trail of the attackers when firing
commenced around 12.30. A facemask was
recovered near the location of the
Aliwanguwa attack suspected to have been
used by one of the attackers and the dogs
were on the trail when one of them started
barking prompting the firing.
There was no indication whether the
attackers also suffered injuries. One of the
sniffer dogs was lost in the clash but was
eventually located by its trainer.
The January 22 confrontation was the
second time troops had come across attackers
operating in the area. The earlier occasion
was on January 17 night when firing erupted
at Hambegamuwa. That left seven dead,
including three civil defence force members.
Either soon after or just before the
Aliwanguwa attack, a field office of the
Wild Life Department in the area too was
raided and supplies including a gas stove
had been taken away. The raid is suspected
to have been carried out by one of the Tiger
groups operating in the area.
Civilians in Buttala and Tanamalvila say
that they suspect that the attackers may be
using the rivers and streams that crisscross
the region as a guide and operate close to
them so as to avoid getting lost in the
They say that most of the attacks have
occurred close to a river or a stream. The
army also detected a group of around 30
Tigers in the Vilgamvihara area northwest of
Nelveli north of the Trincomalee bay
around 10 p.m. on January 24. One soldier
was killed in the fighting and one Tiger was
also suspected killed.
The military suspects the group could
have been moving east and further south from
the Welioya region to join cadres in the
east. A group of Tigers is also suspected to
be based in the Peraru jungles that lie
south of where the clash took place.
Both the Tigers and the military reported
clashes in the Kokkudu- duwai area in the
Welioya sector last week. Clashes were
reported at location refered to as the
Ceylon Theatres Junction in the morning of
January 24. The military said that eight
Tigers were killed in the clashes.
The Tigers said that three soldiers were
killed and six injured in the fighting.
The heaviest clashes however were
reported in the Adampan area in Mannar. They
have concentrated in Palaikuli that lies
just west of Adampan junction. The Tigers
said that clashes on January 24 lasted well
over two hours from 6 a.m.
They claimed that six soldiers had been
killed and 16 wounded. Last week, both sides
said that they had deployed snipers in the
Vavuniya-Mannar front. On January 20
morning, heavy clashes erupted in the
Palaikuli area when the military tried to
advance with heavy artillery and mortar
fire. The Tigers said that they had
prevented the assault and deployed snipers
to target advancing troops.
They said that 16 soldiers were killed by
the snipers on January 20, a figure that has
been dismissed by the government military.
Three days later, the government forces also
said that snipers were hunting Tigers in
Mannar and Muhamalai as well.
Government troops have been trying to
take control of Adampan junction which in
turn would cut off a major access point to
the Vidalathivu area for the Tigers.
Vidalathivu is one of the main supply bases
for the Tigers on the northwestern coast.
The discovery of 16 highly decomposed
bodies from Kebethigollewa also raises a
different dimension, something that the
country has had to deal with in the recent
past as well — unidentified bodies on the
wayside, like those discovered by a Muslim
cattle herder near Kebethigollewa. The first
sign was that there was only one body as the
man has seen only part of an arm and head
jutting through the earth. When police began
to dig, 10 bodies were recovered from the
shallow grave and another six close by.
When the bodies were recovered they were
at such deep state of decomposition that
doctors at the Anuradhapura hospital say
identification as well as determining the
cause of the death would be a difficult