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Sunday, 20 December 2009

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Lost Paranthan and Kilinochchi within 48 hours:

Downfall of the LTTE

The fall of Pooneryn, the LTTE’s strategic nerve centre which could keep the activities of the Jaffna peninsula, the citadel of the Tamil community, under intense pressure, marked a drastic downfall of the LTTE. It was not only a fall of just another strategic township, for the LTTE, but also a turning point for the people in the Jaffna peninsula to change their attitude towards the Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Pooneryn was fallen to the hands of the Security Forces just 10 days ahead of the annual Heroes Day speech of the Tiger leader Prabhakaran, it became a more humiliating defeat for the LTTE. With the fall of Pooneryn LTTE had to once again think of a new strategy to defend their most prestigious strongholds Paranthan and Kilinochchi.

But, for the LTTE there was no other novel innovation rather than extending their earth bunds to cover up their strongholds. This time they created yet another massive earth bund from North to South direction covering Kilinochchi area.

This ditch cum earth bund ran upto Jaffna lagoon from the South West of Kilinochchi.

Apart from this earth bund the LTTE also created number of defence lines across the A-9 road from the South of Kilinochchi too where the 57 Division was continuing their battles with the LTTE. Their prime aim was to create maximum number of barriers for the troops who were trying their best to capture this Tiger stronghold.

The period soon after the capture of the Pooneryn, did not turn into good days for the Security Forces. The heavy rains couples with a cyclone that hit the Northern and Wanni theatre turn the entire battle front into more like reservoirs. Many troops were marooned in the frontlines in Pooneryn and Jaffna lagoon, after Mannar-Pooneryn road inundated at five places making the entire road impassable for more than five days.

Troops of the 57, 58, Task Force II, Task Force III were hit by a logistical nightmare as there was no supplies were available to them for more than five days. Even the troops of the 58 Division who were heading towards Paranthan covering the areas North and South of Pooneryn - Paranthan B-65 road were also badly affected by the bad weather conditions.

The floods in the battlefront, delayed the forward march of the troops to the prestigious strongholds of the LTTE. However, troops maintained their huge military thrust on the LTTE despite these bad weather conditions. However, troops of the 57 Division and the 58 Division had to face the stiffest resistance from the LTTE in their attempts to cross the massive earth bunds.

At the initial stage of the battle troops faced certain drawback in their bid to capture this earth bund as LTTE tried to trap the soldiers crossing this earth bund and advance towards the Tiger territory directing rains of artillery and mortar towards them soon after they crossed the earth bund.

A fair number of deaths and casualties were reported and a number of soldiers reported missing after their initial attempts to capture the earth bund. The LTTE made use of the captured bodies of the soldiers for a massive media stint.

But they were not aware of the fact that it was just a temporary victory for them as troops were determined to launch assaults in a much more planned manner after facing those temporary setbacks.

The same situation reported was from the 57 Division too in their bid to capture this earth bund. But troops learnt many lessons from their drawbacks and it was on December 16, they saw a major breakthrough in their attempt to take control of this earth bund, which was created from North to South direction covering their path towards Paranthan and Kilinochchi. On December 16, 2008, the 57 Division under the command of Major General Jagath Dias, 58 Division under the command of Brigadier Shavendra Silva coupled with the 53 Division under the command of the Brigadier Kamal Gunaratne and the 55 Division under the command of Brigadier Prasanna de Silva made who were operating in the Jaffna front launched a simultaneous attacks on Tiger defences.

Although a fair number of casualties and deaths were reported from the Security Forces during the fierce battles in the 57 and 58 Division fronts, the 58 Division troops managed to capture one kilometre stretch of earth bund from the North of Pooneryn - Paranthan B-69 road. It, once again cleared the path for the Security Forces to breach the Tiger defence line and move ahead of it.

The 58 Division facing all counter attacks by the LTTE continuously held this stretch of earth bund and advanced ahead of it from the Jaffna lagoon front whilst taking the control of the lagoon front and expanding their positions along the earth bund from Jaffna lagoon to South of Pooneryn - Paranthan road.

They faced many counter attacks by the LTTE and the biggest counter attack came on December 23 as rains of mortar and artillery fell onto the Security Forces defences starting at 5.30 a.m.

It continued till 8 am in the morning. It was exactly few hours after that the 58 Division captured Sinnaparanthan area located some five kilometres west of Paranthan on the Pooneryn-Paranthan road.

However, the 58 Division managed to link up their positions along the earth bund from Jaffna lagoon to Pooneryn-Paranthan front and continued to expand towards the South of Pooneryn-Paranthan road towards Adampan village. The 58 and 57 Division troops were linked up in the immediate North of Adampan village which is located in the West of Kilinochchi.

Heavy fighting erupted continuously in this front as 58 Division troops continued their march West to East direction creating a wider front covering the Pooneryn - Paranthan road. The moves of the 58 Division created a huge problem for the LTTE as the 58 Division front was in a position to strike Kilinochchi, Paranthan or Elephant Pass at any given time.

Considering all these factors troops of the 58 Division made their advance without allowing the LTTE to think of their strategy.

On December 23, the 58 Division troops captured Sinnaparanthan, a village earlier inhabited by farming community. Soldiers had to fight a fierce battle before they reached Sinnaparanthan about 6 Km west of Paranthan town centre.

Having established positions in Sinna Paranthan that was captured on December 23, 2008, 58 Division troops made their advance towards further east amidst terrorist fire until they overpowered all terrorist resistance and captured Nalanawakulam located, about 5 km west of Paranthan on December 27, 2008.

With the capture of Nalanawakulam, the 58 Division troops were at striking distance to both Kilinochchi and Paranthan. But their main target was the strategic junction town Paranthan. Since the terrain the 58 Division troops had to cross to reach Paranthan was somewhat difficult troops preferred to have night moves rather than fighting the LTTE during day time.

To make their final move towards Paranthan troops used the 30th night and the 31st morning before the first light to bring in troops as close as 500 meters to the West of A-9 road and advanced towards West of Paranthan on December 31 morning without taking much casualties.

During day time troops managed to pin down LTTE from their defensive position while attacking them accurately with the use of their massive fire power. By December 31 evening the LTTE cadres were thoroughly demoralized and disorganized and it was found that no senior commander came on to defend their positions against the aggressive troops who were determined to capture Paranthan and the A-9 before midnight 31, 2008.

That was one of the rare occasions where the troops observed LTTE leadership blaming each other without adopting any method to prevent the aggressive troops of the 58 Division.

Sri Lanka Air Force Fighter jets also operated in support of the 58 Division throughout day hours taking amazing hits.

Troops were determined to capture Paranthan latest by 9 pm on December 31. To achieve the task of making the Paranthan town untenable to the LTTE the, 58 Division troops cut off A-9 from 3 Km North of Paranthan, a location between Paranthan and Elephant Pass whilst another column of troops cut off the A-9 road in general area famously known as “Karandi Bokkuva” which is located some four Kilo metres South of Paranthan junction and closer to Kilinochchi town. The 9 Gemunu Watch battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Lal Chandrasiri advanced towards the A-9 road from the North of Paranthan while 12 Gemunu Watch battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Nandana Dunuwila advanced towards the A-9 road between columns of troops of the 9 Gemunu Watch and the Paranthan junction. It was the 17 Gemunu Watch battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Keerthi Kottewatta advanced head on to the Paranthan junction in their bid to capture the key junction town.

Troops attached to the 10 Gajaba Regiment under the command of Major Udaovita advanced from the South of Pooneryn-Paranthan road to cut off the A-9 road in the general area Karandibokkuwa to the North of Kilinochchi. The Paranthan junction was completely cut off by 8 p.m.

On December 31 thus giving the good message of capturing Paranthan to the citizen of Sri Lanka as the dawn of the year 2009.

But it was not the end. The most prestigious Kilinochchi town was located just few kilo metres away from the Paranthan junction and troops of the 11 Sri Lanka Light Infantry battalion headed further south of Paranthan to make the Kilinochchi town untenable for the LTTE from the Northern direction too when the troops of the 57 Division were confronting the LTTE from the South and West of Kilinochchi.

Whilst the 58 Division making those strategic moves capturing Paranthan, the 57 Division under the command of Major General Jagath Dias also led his troops in the West and South of Kilinochchi towards the centre.

The 571 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Harendra Ranasinghe advanced towards Kilinochchi from the West whilst keeping links with 8 Gemunu Watch Battalion under the command of Lt.

Colonel Vajira Welagedara who was operating in the Southern end of the 58 Division. That was the vital link between the two Divisions that led to the battle for Kilinochchi made comparatively an easy one in its last days of the battle.

By December 3, 2008, the 571 Brigade operating in the West and the 572 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Dhammika Jayasundera operating in the South West of Kilinochchi have already reached the build up area of Kilinochchi town West of A-9 road. The 574 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Senaka Wijesuriya also advanced towards the vital Iranamadu junction from South of Kilinochchi amidst stiff resistance from the LTTE.

As of January 01 , the troops observed a remarkable progress in their march towards Kilinochchi as they observed LTTE cadres fleeing from the Kilinochchi town loading their stuff in vehicles whilst their leadership was making desperate attempts to stop them fleeing Kilinochchi.

At the dawn of the January 2, troops of the 572 Brigade, 12 Sinha Regiment which was under the command of Lt. Colonel Indrajith Bandara, 9 Gajaba Regiment under the command of Lt. Colonel Chandana Somaweera, and 4 Sinha Regiment entered the centre of Kilinochchi after advancing one kilometre across the build up area in the West of Kilinochchi.

The 3 Gajaba Regiment and the 9 Vijayaba Infantry regiment under the 572 Brigade entered the Kilinochchi town from the North of Iranamadu junction. The 8 Sri Lanka Infantry Regiment under the command of Lt. Colonel Epsitha Dissanayake, 10 Sri Lanka Light Infantry battalion under the command of Major Samantha and 16 Sinha Regiment battalion under the command of Major Dhammika Dissanayake took control of the area upto the telecom tower in the South of Kilinochchi.

Amidst these moves LTTE opted to flee from Kilinochchi, towards Dry Aru in the East of Kilinochchi. Fierce battles erupted in Dry Aru tank area and Iranamadu tank as troops further advanced towards the East of Kilinochchi town to make the town more safer.One major obstacle they faced was the 30 mm canon famously known as pedal gun of the LTTE that directed fire at the advancing troops who shifted that gun from the area by January 2 afternoon to ensure the area is safe to declare Kilinochchi fully liberated.

However , by the time the 57 Division moved into the centre of Kilinochchi town the 58 Division troops have already in control of the Northern part of the town where LTTE had their political and other major buildings. It was after President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the fall of Kilinochchi, the national flag was hoisted in the centre of Kilinochchi town by 57 Division GOC, Major General Jagath Dias closing another decisive chapter in the Eelam War IV.

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