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ON THE TRAIL OF VICTORY - Sunday Observer pays tribute to the Security Forces on Second Anniversary

Last battle that ended LTTE terror

The news of the killing of the world's most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden and people around the world jubilantly celebrating his death, took many Sri Lankans to the day when Sri Lanka's most ruthless man Prabhakaran was killed two years ago.

The two most wanted and ruthless terrorists are no more. But that particular moment, where Prabhakaran's body was lying on the shores of the Nanthikadal lagoon, still brings memories of the victory which brought the entire country under one flag.

Two years ago on May 20, Lion flags dotted every inch of the country, heralding the message that the war against terrorism country was totally liberated after 30 years. Guns fell silent with the declaration of ending the conflict after the military found the body of the LTTE leader.

 

People poured into the streets and celebrated the war victory while some segments including pro-LTTE elements, who did not want to believe that the LTTE was eliminated and its leader killed, spread rumours.

The credit of silencing the world's most notorious terrorist goes to the the 4th Vijayaba Infantry Regiment (VIR) led by Lt. Col. Rohitha Aluvihare under the command by the former 681 Brigade Commander Lt. Col. Lalantha Gamage.

It was in the wee hours of May 18 that an eight-man team of the VIR ambushed some islets in the Nanthikadal lagoon to destroy the remaining hideouts of the terrorist leader.

The time clicked 3 in the morning and the eight-man team led by Sgt Bandara crept through the muddy waters of the lagoon. Camouflaged in thorny bushes of the marsh, the soldiers smelled the presence of several groups of terrorists.

He came to know there were over 100 terrorists and his team couldn't face their firing. But he confronted them as he wanted to prevent them from fleeing. After a while he asked for additional troops and also artillery and armour support. He knew he would die but he wanted to accomplish his mission to hunt down Prabhakaran. He fought for hours bravely while the LTTE hardcore terrorists breathed their last along with three of his team members while the additional troops were continuing their fight. When bodies were collected his body was found along with these of the LTTE's senior cadre Jayam and eight other suicide cadres. Several suicide jackets were also found.

Sgt. Bandara could have easily kept mum when he saw the large number of terrorists but he confronted them knowing fully well his survival was uncertain.

As the remaining small teams could not resist the firing of the LTTE, the support of the mechanized infantry, artillery and the armour units was sought while continuing the attack on the mangroves incessantly. A fresh operation was launched at 6 a.m. on May 18. The elite commandos and soldiers of the 17 Gemunu Watch were also deployed for the search operation that continued till dusk.

Over 350 LTTE cadres including senior hands and suicide cadres were killed while they were trying to breach the Forward Defence Lines.

But yet there was no clue of Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman. His close escorts who were providing protection were found dead.

The soldiers of 53, 58 and 59 divisions engaged in a rigorous search operation from dawn to dusk to get Prabhakaran dead or alive, but still his whereabouts remained a mystery.

With no good news about their catch, the troops were ordered to continue the on-going search operations.

However, the information about a suspected movement received from a soldier at Vellimullivaikkal early morning of May 19, had given the soldiers fresh hopes about their mission.

The search operations were relaunched with much vigour. The eight-man team led by Sgt T. M. Muthubanda stepped into the mangroves and while collecting the bodies strewn at the location, a sudden firing 600 metres away from the FDL resulted in a confrontation. From the resistance they met, the team felt the presence of a high profile LTTE leader in the area with the increased firing power at the mangroves.

As the fight was getting tough Sgt Muthubanda was supported by another eight-man team led by Sgt. H. P. Wijesinghe. They fought for over one and half hours in a face to face battle. No heavy weapons were used as it was a close battle.

Prabhakaran's escorts armed with sophisticated weapons and wearing uniforms gave a tough fight in which they threw grenades at the soldiers to prevent them from reaching the dead body of their leader. But his close protection ring with ten hardcore terrorists was also destroyed by the soldiers who conducted the search operation and recovered the bodies.

The guns fell silent and 20 soldiers who fought in the very last battle at the Nanthikadal lagoon started collecting bodies without knowing that they were the team that had fought the last battle of the Eelam IV.

The team collected five bodies and pistols which indicated that the dead were VIP escorts. One of the bodies identified was that of Vinodan, a senior most bodyguard of the inner protection team of the LTTE leader.

Lt. Col. Gamage briefed his troops on May 18 to refresh their minds about the physical features of Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman. Sgt. Muthubanda who was the first to find a plumpy body with a moustache clad in Tiger uniform, had informed Lt. Col. Gamage about it.

The Brigade Commander accompanied by Lt. Col. Aluvihare rushed to the murky location to identify the body.

Yes... it was his body. They jubilantly conveyed the good news to the GOC 53 Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne.

The man who motivated thousands of innocent children and youth to die by swallowing the deadly cyanide vials was found to have none in his possession.

No cyanide vial was hanging around his neck. Instead the dog tag TT 3 bearing the number 001 and dated 16.09.95 hung around the monster killer's neck. His 'Eelam' identity card with his picture bearing number 01543301002 issued on 01.01.2007 and with his personal details like date of birth - 26.11.1954, place of birth - Velvettiturai and occupation - Leader of the LTTE was there in his uniform pocket.

The jubilant soldiers singing, 'Mawbimata Jaya wewa' (Victory for the motherland) waving the national flags walked freely after ending their mission after 30-long years.

Since the death of the megalomanic 'Sun God' who turned this fertile land in to a blood bath, Sri Lanka never heard of any incidents of terror.

The brave soldiers of the country are more vigilant and more strong not to leave room for another Prabhakaran to make Sri Lanka a killing zone.

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