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Home > Tamil Eelam Struggle for Freedom > Tamil Armed Resistance & the Law > Reports on Armed Conflict in Tamil Eelam > Tigers' feint kills 100 Sri Lanka troops
REPORTS ON ARMED CONFLICT IN TAMIL EELAM
Tigers' feint kills 100 Sri Lanka troops
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) officials in Ki'linochchi said the Tigers have located more than 30 dead
bodies of the SLA soldiers in the clearing mission so far in the Northern Front
after a major operation by the SLA was thwarted by them. 28 dead bodies were
brought to Ki'linochchi. Meanwhile, a Sri Lanka Army (SLA) source, which didn't
wish to be named, verified that 104 dead bodies were initially recovered by the
army and more than 400 were wounded. The source further said at least 150
soldiers were killed in action. In the meantime, a Colombo bound passenger said
he had seen 12 bus loads of dead and wounded soldiers being rushed to the runway
in Palaali military complex.
Most of the wounded were airlifted to Colombo general
Ilanthirayan provided details of the arms and ammunition seized by the
Tigers: Ilanthiryan quoted LTTE Commander Theepan as saying that there were further
bullet and explosives ridden bodies of SLA soldiers scattered around inside the
no-man zone. 16 LTTE fighters were killed in action.
Most of the wounded were airlifted to Colombo general
Ilanthirayan provided details of the arms and ammunition seized by the
Ilanthiryan quoted LTTE Commander Theepan as saying that there were further bullet and explosives ridden bodies of SLA soldiers scattered around inside the no-man zone. 16 LTTE fighters were killed in action.
feint kills 100 Sri Lanka troops
Iqbal Athas in CNN, 24 April 2008
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- More than 100 Sri Lankan soldiers were killed and another 400 wounded Wednesday when troops attempted to advance toward a stronghold of the Tamil Tigers rebel organization, highly placed army sources told CNN.
The incident happened before dawn, when troops manning a defense line in the northern Sri Lanka village of Muhamalai attempted to advance toward the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi in the northern Wanni region, the sources said.
The village is on a thin isthmus linking mainland Sri Lanka to the Jaffna peninsula. A defense line bordered by the Kilaly Lagoon on the west and the Indian Ocean on the east divides the rebel-controlled area from those held by the government's security forces.
Troops made an attempt to open a third front in the Wanni region by advancing south, Army officials said. Their ultimate aim was to reach Kilinochchi -- the power center of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil, better known as the Tamil Tigers.
"The rebels feigned they had withdrawn from their first line of defenses in well-dug-out trenches," one official said. "After the troops backed by battle tanks reached the area, the rebels sprung a fierce attack."
The incident deals a setback to military efforts to weaken the Tamil Tigers. Government leaders and military commanders vowed early this year to "eliminate" the rebels by the end of the year, but later extended the deadline into 2009.
Until Wednesday, the heavy fighting had remained focused in the western coastal town of Mannar and the northeastern coastal area of Weli Oya.
Local and foreign media are barred from visiting battlegrounds, except on conducted tours, and casualty counts from the military and the rebels are often exaggerated.
Initial information on the Wednesday incident came from the Media Centre for National Security, the only government agency disseminating information on the separatist war. In its latest update, it says 43 soldiers and more than 100 rebels have been killed, while 120 soldiers are injured and 33 are missing.
Independent verification of claims made by the center is often difficult.
The army sources also told CNN that at least 30 soldiers were reported missing in action. Rebel sources reported some soldiers remained lying on the battleground, but did not divulge a number.
Some of the injured were flown to Colombo hospitals. Officials appealed to the public on radio and television to donate blood.
Lies, damn lies and
Ranjith Jayasundera in Sinhala owned
Sri Lanka Sunday Leader, 27 April 2008
Last week, the country was shaken by a colossal battle between the army and
LTTE, on the northern defence lines south of Jaffna.
Two days later on Tuesday morning, the LTTE told the TamilNet website that
they had destroyed a Sri Lanka Army battle tank in Muhamalai. When we contacted
the military spokesman, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, he insisted that there was
no fighting in Muhamalai, and denied that a tank had been destroyed, telling us
that "it appeared on a pro-LTTE website, therefore it is wrong."
Sri Lankan army suffers
a debacle as a northern offensive collapses - Sarath Kumara in World
Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org
29 April 2008
The Sri Lankan army suffered a serious defeat last week when a military offensive near Muhamalai and Kilali was repulsed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). There is no reliable figure for the number of casualties, but at least 140 soldiers were killed and over 300 wounded. The number is almost certain to rise as news of the operation filters out through heavy government censorship.
President Mahinda Rajapakse plunged the island back to war in July
2006 and earlier this year formally tore up the 2002 ceasefire with the LTTE. His shaky coalition government and the defence establishment have promised a speedy and easy victory over the LTTE by the end of the year. As a result, any military reversal has the potential to provoke a serious political crisis for the government.
Behind closed doors, there are clearly concerns in ruling circles.
Shamindra Ferdinando, a reporter with close connections to the security establishment, wrote in the Island on Friday, that the LTTE had "jolted the government with devastating counterattacks on the Jaffna front. Although it wouldn't have altered the overall course of the military campaign, the re-building of the depleted infantry units would be a tough task."
Publicly, the government and military top brass have frantically tried to suppress details of the defeat, including the extent of casualties.
Police and soldiers have been stationed in hospitals and outside funeral parlours to prevent the media from speaking to injured soldiers and relatives. When contacted by the WSWS, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, director of accident services at Colombo National Hospital, said that he had been ordered "from the top" to provide no details and to block any visit by journalists.
Official accounts of what happened in northern Sri Lanka on April 23 have been marked by evasion, obfuscation and lies. Government and military spokesmen have denied that what took place was a failed offensive, or an ambush, and continue to insist that the army captured LTTE frontlines, following an LTTE attack. Injured soldiers, who spoke to the WSWS, however, were quite certain that they had been ordered to advance and walked into a trap.
Fighting erupted in the early morning of Wednesday at 2.30 a.m. and lasted until 12:40 p.m. along a narrow neck of land, some 7 kilometres wide, which connects the northern Jaffna peninsula with the rest of the island. The purpose of the offensive was obviously to capture LTTE positions further south, including the strategic Elephant Pass, which the army lost in 2000. LTTE strongholds in the Wanni region, including its base at Kilinochchi would then be vulnerable to attack.
The "Situation Report" in last weekend's Sunday Times painted a bleak picture of the frontlines. "Any soldier knows Muhamalai is unfriendly terrain. When there is bright sunshine, the plates of rice and curry they hold in their hand are showered by the winds with dusty thin sand. Other times when it rains, the ground is soggy and the menace from the mosquitoes is threatened."
The newspaper's Iqbal Athas was one of a handful of journalists selected to tour the northern war zone earlier this month. He was in no doubt that the military was preparing a major offensive, pointing out that "some senior army officers in the north had hinted so". The timing of the operation coincided with the campaign for provincial elections in the East which are due to take place on May 10. The government was clearly calculating that a military victory would boost its chances.
The Daily Mirror reported on Thursday that the attack took place less than six hours after a visit by army commander, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, to the Jaffna peninsula where he met with senior military officers about future war plans. Fonseka boasted earlier this year that he would end the "terrorist" problem before he retired this December.
Defence spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara initially insisted that the operation had been defensive, not offensive. The armed forces had "repulsed the LTTE attack", he declared. He claimed that military losses had been small and that the army had captured the LTTE's heavily-guarded first line of defence, killed 52 of its fighters and injuring more than 100. Later, without explanation, he increased the number of LTTE dead to 100 and announced an advance of 500 metres.
The story quickly fell apart, however. By noon last Thursday, the military was forced to admit that 43 soldiers had been killed and 160 injured. Another 33 were reported as missing. The alteration of the figures came after the LTTE handed the bodies of 28 soldiers to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). An obvious question arises: if the army was advancing, how was it that the LTTE was collecting bodies from the field of battle? The military has provided no explanation.
Further reports on Thursday indicated that army casualties were far higher. The Island newspaper, which fully backs the war, estimated the number of dead at 140 and injured at 200. Lanka-e-News reported that 143 bodies had been handed to just three funeral parlours, in and around Colombo alone—not counting the bodies given by the LTTE to the ICRC. The website also reported that 368 military personnel had been injured, 286 of them seriously.
The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website has published pictures of a large quantity of captured arms and ammunition and acknowledged that 25 of LTTE fighters had died in the battle. Both sides in the conflict are notorious for inflating their "successes" and minimising their losses.The government has banned any independent reporting from the frontlines.
The evasive character of the official response is clear from the following exchange between government defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella and journalists at a press conference last Thursday.
Q: Some of the reports say this was a military disaster?
KR: Certainly not. Certainly not. Disasters have happened when 1,500 people were killed in Elephant Pass.
Q: Is it a setback?
KR: We have moved forward so it is not a setback. If you move backwards you can call it a setback.
Q: Is it that when the troops moved forward the LTTE registered their artillery and mortar positions to fire at the soldiers. This was an ambush essentially. It sounds like the troops fell into the trap of the LTTE.
KR: One could interpret it that way. When you engage in a battle of this nature, a 30-year-old battle, we have debacles. In between we have fierce battles, and that is part of the routine. As far as the army is concerned they are confident that they have moved forward. They have established themselves. That is the target. They have gone forward 500 metres.
Rambukwella's comments reek of cynical indifference for the lives of soldiers, not to speak of many thousands of civilians who have been killed, maimed or displaced by the past two years of fighting.
Last week's "debacle" was the worst single loss for the Sri Lankan military since October 2006, when around 400 solders perished in the same area in a failed offensive. In November, another military adventure in the Muhamalai area ended up in a similar defeat, costing the lives of scores of soldiers.
The decision to squander the lives of scores, if not hundreds, of troops into a new attempt to capture the LTTE's northern strongholds is a measure of the government's desperation. Beginning in July 2006, the Sri Lankan security forces were able to drive the LTTE out of its eastern bases with relative ease, assisted by a major split in the LTTE's ranks in 2004.
Last July, after whipping up patriotic fervour over "the victory in the East", the government and the army turned their attention to the North. Intense fighting began in the north western district of Mannar. Another front was opened up in the north eastern area of Welioya in January. Fighting has bogged down, however, as the LTTE, with its back to the wall, resisted every advance.
The offensive at Muhamalai was a hurried attempt to open up a third front that would threaten key LTTE strong points. The government response to last week's failure was to unleash a savage aerial bombardment on LTTE held areas. On Wednesday evening, air force warplanes and helicopters hit what were claimed to be LTTE positions in Muhamalai. The following day, an LTTE base, allegedly for the training of suicide bombers, was attacked at Panikkankulam.
Desperate to announce a "success", government troops in the Mannar district on Friday seized the Catholic church at Madhu, after weeks of bitter fighting in the area.
Two days after the collapse of the Muhamalai offensive, a time bomb went off in Piliyandala, on the outskirts of Colombo, killing 26 civilians—men, women and children. The LTTE, which is based on the reactionary communal outlook of Tamil separatism, has carried out such atrocities before and may have been responsible for this bombing. But in the present situation, it is also possible that the military or its allied militia set off the bomb to enable the government and its chauvinist supporters to whip up a pro-war frenzy.
There are growing signs of opposition to the war. Many people voted for Rajapakse in November 2005, because they expected him to end the war, not restart it. The Muhamalai disaster will only fuel further anger as working people are compelled to bear the burdens not only of the ongoing death and destruction, but the economic impact of the war. Skyrocketting military expenditures are adding the soaring inflation caused by rising global food and energy prices.
Comments in the Daily Mirror last week gave a glimpse of the underlying hostility to the war and the communal politics of all political parties.
One reader wrote: "Brothers/Sisters, this war can not be won and for those who support this war, please go ahead and see the photos of our brave soldiers lying dead in the bunkers. Did they deserve to die like that? What will we gain by sacrificing our soldier's life? A massive grave yard (mother lanka)." Another wrote: "It is sad to listen to this story. Our boys from both communities are dying for their masters' blood thirst."
A third commented: "Oh my god, are we speaking of human lives. Are they not sons, brothers and fathers of some Sri Lankan. Should this happen in this Dharmadvipaya [holy land]? Who benefits from this war? This is what happens when a war is fought on a political agenda. Just imagine the plight of these families who have lost a beloved. Enough is enough. SRI LANKANS need not be fundamentalists, chauvinists or fanatics like others."
The reference by government spokesman Rambukwella to the Elephant Pass disaster during his press conference was not an accidental one. The government is acutely aware of the political crisis sparked in 2000 after the military barely staved off a complete collapse of its northern armies. The LTTE not only overran the military's base but threatened tens of thousands of troops trapped on the northern Jaffna peninsula.
Having restarted the war, Rajapakse's militarist clique in Colombo has already resorted to emergency rule, arbitrary detention and state terror to suppress criticism and opposition. Hundreds of people have been "disappeared" or murdered by military-sponsored death squads. The attempts to stamp out any reporting of the Muhamalai defeat are a warning sign that even more draconian methods are being prepared for the future.
soldiers and families speak
World Socialist Web Site, by our reporters, 29 April 2008
Hundreds of injured soldiers have been hospitalised in Sri Lanka after a military offensive in the Muhamalai-Nagarkovil-Kilali area on April 22-24 was beaten back by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The operation involved about 800 troops directly, backed by another 5,000 personnel.
Wounded solders are now undergoing treatment at the Palali military hospital on the northern Jaffna peninsula, Anuradhapura hospital in north-central province, the National and Military hospitals in Colombo, and the Kalubowila and Jayawardenapura hospitals in Colombo’s suburbs.
Nervous about the political impact of the defeat, the government has imposed de facto censorship by barring journalists from the hospitals. Military police guard the entrances to wards where injured soldiers are being treated.
At the National Hospital, Accident Service director, Dr Anil Jasinghe, told the World Socialist Web Site that he could not reveal the number of injured soldiers admitted and could not allow reporters inside. Troops have also been posted near funeral parlours to prevent journalists speaking to the families of dead soldiers.
WSWS reporters did speak to some injured soldiers at a Colombo hospital, whose names we cannot publish for their own security. All were under the age of 30. As we entered the ward, we were shocked to see young men, who had barely begun their adult lives, severely maimed. Some had their legs amputated while others had lost their hands or were totally deaf.
Their relatives were mainly from remote villages and very poor. Their faces were strained from shock and grief. Most soldiers are economic conscripts from poor rural backgrounds, forced to join the military by poverty and the lack of employment.
The soldiers had been sent to the battlefield from three camps—Muhamalai, Nagarkovil and Kilali. The offensive started at around 9.30 p.m. on April 22. At some places, the troops were initially able to push forward into LTTE territory. But then the LTTE attack started, using mortars and 81mm guns. Soldiers told us that they now think that the LTTE had laid a trap—allowing the advance, then counter-attacking.
The soldiers had not been told how many were killed or injured in the operation. Since being hospitalised, they realised that the casualties must run into the hundreds. They had not been briefed before being sent into battle. They had simply advanced under officers’ orders.
A 26-year-old soldier, who had been shot through the back and upper arm, told us: “My father is a farmer and has been paralysed for about 15 years. My mother is dead. Due to our family’s severe poverty, my elder brother joined the army when he was 18. Later, I joined.
“I was a good athlete so I was recruited to the army’s Physical Training Institute in Panagoda. I worked as a Physical Training Instructor (PTI) from the beginning. Now I am married and my wife is pregnant. I am the one who looks after my family, including my father and brother.
“I thought that PTIs would not be sent into battle. We were once told that we would be attached to schools to form cadet platoons. I thought that that was a better alternative because my brother lost one of his legs in an earlier battle. Once we become handicapped, we cannot find civilian jobs.
“Even though the president, the ministers and the top military officers maintain that the war will conclude soon, I think it will drag on indefinitely. It is clear from the experience of this battle that we were driven back. When we were attacked, we were not provided with additional firepower. Later, it was provided, but by then all hell had happened.”
Another soldier, also 26, said: “I joined the army eight years ago when I was 18. Because we were poor villagers, almost all the youth joined the army. Although we can get leave occasionally, we cannot meet any of our friends because not all are granted leave at once.
“My father, mother and sister—everyone in my family—depend on my income. This is the second time I have been hospitalised with severe injuries. My earlier injuries gave me a deaf right ear. It seems I must lose my right hand this time. That means I will not be able to work.
“I have a fiancée in my village. I postponed the marriage in the hope of building a house after earning some money. I was trying to meet that target when I was injured the first time. The girl’s parents believe that this year is inauspicious for me, according to the horoscope, because I am a soldier. So, the marriage was postponed again.
“When you have fallen into a pit, you have to come out through the mouth of the pit itself. So, I have to complete the required number of years in service and then retire.”
A mother-in-law angrily told the WSWS: “After the Rajapakse government [in November 2005] came to power we thought the war would end soon, peace would be accomplished and living conditions would improve. There is no sign that any of these will happen in the near future.”
The soldier’s wife emphatically declared. “I will never let him [her husband] go to war again. When he was injured previously I begged him not to go into battle again. But he left, saying there was no other way to feed and clothe the family.”
Separately, the WSWS visited the village of Kohombawatta, about 73 kilometres from Colombo, where the funeral of S.M. Sisirakumara took place on Sunday. The 26-year-old was among the soldiers killed in the Muhamalai offensive on April 23.
His grief stricken mother, H.A. Kusumawathie, explained to the WSWS: “I have never been to school. I wanted to provide my five sons with education. When Sisirakumara wanted to join the army in 2000, I opposed it and appealed to him to continue his education. But because of the poverty at home he wanted to join the army. He was the fourth of my five sons.
“Since then he left the army several times but rejoined because he had no other livelihood. After rejoining in January, my son was sent to the frontline. He wanted to come home on leave in May but instead he came in a sealed coffin in April. After Sisirakumara joined the army, one of his elder brothers also wanted to sign up. But Sisirakumara warned him against joining, saying it was too risky.”
Sisirakumara was married and had a four-year-old daughter. His wife left for Bahrain three months ago to work as a housemaid and was unable to attend the funeral.
People in Kohombawatta and nearby villages live in dire poverty. Many villagers work as day labourers on large coconut estates or in coconut mills for 250 rupees ($US2.30) and 300 rupees a day respectively. Kusumawathie looked after her sons by working as a day labourer and doing other odd jobs.
Sisirakumar’s brother Upali worked as a mason repairing roads in the North while the 2002 ceasefire held. He explained: “Because of the war, people in the North have become helpless and very poor. They were friendly to us when we worked there. They don’t want war. Sinhalese politicians have done many injustices to these people. The pain in the mind of Tamils cannot be defeated by a war. We are also living in an intolerable situation due to the high price of essentials. War will not solve these problems.”