Tigers stop SLA thrust, capture APC
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 20 August 1997, 23:59 GMT]
The Sri Lankan army launched yet another assault against the Tamil town of Puliyankulum yesterday morning. After heavy fighting the LTTE defenders threw back the assault, destroying and capturing Sri Lankan armour. The SLA has been attempting to take Puliyankulum for several weeks as part of its latest offensive in the Tamil homelands.
SLA units located south of Puliyankulum launched a fierce assault to capture the town this morning. Thousands of troops backed by tanks, helicopter gunships and artillery advanced from their positions two miles south of the town. Heavy fighting followed when the Sri Lankans ran into LTTE defences.
The SLA claimed they had killed 50 Tigers and lost seven men in heavy fighting. However, reports from the area say the SLA units were thrown back in a fierce counter attack launched by LTTE troops. Two Sri Lankan battle tanks were blown to pieces and another pair badly damaged. The SLA are said to have managed to recover the damaged tanks despite intense Tiger fire.
The LTTE's main prize was an armoured troop carrier which was captured undamaged. The Tigers are said to have turned the vehicle's 73mm cannon on the SLA. The Sinhalese troops had fallen back to their original positions, covered by their heavy guns.
At least 6 Tigers were killed, but the LTTE counter-attack is believed to have inflicted severe casualties on the SLA units. The bodies of 7 Sinhalese soldiers have reportedly been recovered from the battlefield which is said to be littered with debris.
In addition to the APC, the Tigers are said to have captured assault rifles, machine guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition from the attacking forces.
The Sri Lankan offensive 'Jaya Sikiru', launched 3 months ago, is aimed at opening a supply route to its Jaffna garrison which has almost been cut off by LTTE attacks on aerial and naval supply lines. The troops on the peninsula are isolated from the rest of the island by a broad swathe of LTTE-held territory.
Yesterday's assault is the latest in a series of abortive attacks launched by the Sri Lankans to capture Puliyankulum. Artillery, jet bombers and helicopter gunships have been bombarding the area for several weeks. The Tigers are fighting back from a complex network of trenches and bunkers.
In August d* 1996, a similar defence system at Paranthan defied all frontal assaults and having lost hundreds of troops, the SLA was eventually forced to outflank the defenders by taking a 15-mile circuitous route. However, this is expected to be harder to repeat at Puliyankulum due to the difficult terrain and jungle.