Operation Yal Express
The Sri Lankan Army's grandiosely codenamed
'Operation Yal Devi ' (after yesteryears express train to
Jaffna) was stopped in its tracks by determined
resistance by the Liberation Tigers after four days of
heavy fighting in late September/early October.
The Sri Lankan offensive was launched at the crack of
dawn on 28 September and was accompanied by
indiscriminate bombing of civilian population centres in
the Jaffna peninsula.
The Sri Lanka offensive, which was reportedly on the
drawing boards for about three weeks, was launched in the
aftermath of the successful attack by the Sea Tigers on
the 300 million rupee Sri Lankan
DVRO Fast Attack Craft on 29 August and the loss of
more than 50 million rupees worth of weapons and
ammunition to the LTTE in Janakapura Camp attack on 24
The objective of the offensive as spelt out in the
operations order, was to destroy the fleet of boats and
the Sea Tiger base in Kilali from which the LTTE moved
men and material for its guerilla campaign in the East.
In the end, the Sri Lanka Army, unable to hold Kilali,
retreated back to its Elephant Pass Base.
It was a case of back to square one for the Sri
Lanka army - but with more than a hundred Sinhala
soldiers dead, almost two hundred wounded and millions of
rupees of weapons and ammunition lost to the
The Defence Correspondent of the Sinhala owned Sri
Lanka Sunday Times commented:
''Day one (of the offensive), with little or no
resistance from the (LTTE) buoyed hopes and fuelled
visions of a major victory. So much so, media accounts
are glowing. But, just, the second day suffered a major
set back. Colonel Sarath Fonseka was advancing with an
infantry column from Pooneryn towards Chavakacheri when
they faced an unexpected ambush. This was after they
had moved four kilometres out of Elephant Pass.
They were attacked in strength. The men who moved on
foot protecting the advancing Czechoslovak built Main
Battle Tanks (MBTs) were fired upon, many of them at
close quarters.. As they dropped dead, the Tigers took
on the isolated MBTs. As women LTTE cadres provided
fire support, their male colleagues fired Rocket
Propelled Grenades (RPGs).
Two tanks were soon ablaze with the men inside. One
more was damaged but was still battle worthy. This
single encounter left more than 70 soldiers, all from
the same battalion, dead. An equal number including
Col. Fonseka were wounded. As the battle hotted up,
Tigers also attacked a moving column from the
Besides the two MBTs that were destroyed, security
forces lost among others, ten machine guns, four light
machine guns, 72 personal weapons, four RPGs, two 16mm
mortars, grenade launchers, grenades and a large
quantity of ammunition... With the serious debacle on
the second day... top brass at the command room were
soon rethinking on the original aims... The result was
a withdrawal at 6 p.m. on 4 October.
At midnight on the same day, the LTTE resumed
activity at Kilali. The next day SLAF reconnaissance
flights spotted more than 300 boats. It is now known
that the Tigers had removed a large number of boats
from the area presumably on the advance knowledge that
they would come under attack...
The security forces expedition to Kilali has been at
the expense of 111 dead, 187 wounded and seven missing
in action. Apart from human casualties, they have lost
equipment worth several million rupees. The loss of
equipment is costly not only in terms of money but also
of the gain to the enemy.''
The Editorial Comment of the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka
Sunday Times revealed the concerns of the Sinhala
''The main question that is being asked by the
people is why this operation was launched... When the
troops finally reached Kilali on Thursday (30
September) and temporarily sealed the LTTE sea route,
the army faced the option of proceeding to Chavakacheri
or returning to base at Elephant base because it lacked
the men and material to hold captured territory.
Military analysts say that the army command had
asked for more brigades from the East to join the force
on the thrust to Chavakacheri. But the political
decision was that troops could be transferred from the
East only if the army could guarantee that the East
would continue to be safe for proposed elections in
February next year. Due to lack of man power, the army
could not give such a guarantee for the East...
Consequently Operation Yal Devi was called off and
the troops returned to Elephant Pass. There is
information that another factor which led to the
derailing of Operation Yal Devi was the presence and
possibly some pressure from the European Parliamentary
delegation now in Sri Lanka.
While we appreciate their concern for human rights
and peace in Sri Lanka, we would like to ask them why
West European Governments have joined the United States
in playing political games while hundreds are massacred