A new SLA division - and a new deadline
[TamilNet, Saturday, 18 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
The Sri Lankan army raised a new division this week to throw into its operations against the Liberation Tigers in the Vanni jungles.The new unit is Div.56. It is an infantry division.
Div.56 will soon be deployed alongside Div 55 which is on the outskirts of Puliyankulam and is attempting to advance north along the western flank of the Vavniya - Kilinochchi road.
Sources in Vavuniya said that once this new division moves into the Kanakarayan Kulam Puliyankulam sector the advance of Operation Jayasikurui would be expedited. Div.56 is commanded by Brigadier. Sunil Chandrapala.
Although normally an army division on the average consists of fifteen thousand soldiers, the Sri Lankan army divisions that are deployed in the war zone have only about nine thousand troops each.
This is because brigades in the Sri Lankan army have just two battalions each instead of three which is standard. (Three brigades form a division).
The case of Div.1 based in Panagoda near Colombo which has only one battalion and some support units is result of the continuing redirection of troops into raising new units for the war in the north and the east.
The SLA has deployed Div.51 and 52 in the Jaffna peninsula along with two Task Force groups. Task Force One has its headquarters at Palaly and T.F Two has its HQ at Elephant Pass. Trincomalee is under Task Force Three.
The TF One and Two were raised during the PA government's peace talks with the LTTE in 1994-95.
The brunt of the Jayasikurui's thrust into the Vanni is borne by the elite Div 53 consisting of 53-1 air mobile unit, the 53-2 Independent brigade of Special Forces commandos, 53-3 of special armour and the infantry of 53-4.
Sources said the government believes that when Div.56 advances into the Vanni along with Div.55 the twin objectives of weakening the Liberation Tigers and opening the land route to Jaffna could be achieved by April 1998.