Fighting close to SLA garrisons

[TamilNet, Thursday, 28 September 2000, 06:37 GMT]
Fighting raged close to the defence perimeters of the Sri Lanka army bases in Eluthumadduval and Kilali through the early hours of Thursday morning as troops of the Liberation Tigers that had overwhelmed several layers of the SLA's forward defence localities in this sector pressed on with their multi-pronged assault. The commanders of the SLA, Sri Lanka Air Force and Navy flew to Jaffna to co-ordinate efforts to re-organise defences and to regain some of the key forward defence localities captured by the Tigers Tuesday.

The forward defence zone of the main camps of SLA's 52-3 brigade in Eluthumadduval and Kilali had a depth of 2-3 kilometers, fortified by a string of bunkers, look out posts and minor camps, an army source in the north said.

Tiger troops have managed to breach this zone to its full depth in some key sectors, according to them.

The 52-3 brigade's camp at Kilali was beefed up with elements of the 54 division that were withdrawn from the Elephant Pass garrison in April this year and some Special Forces (SF) units of the SLA's elite 53 division.

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Tigers fire 152mm artillery piece Photo:LTTE
The Sri Lanka Navy's commando arm, the Special Boat Squadron (SBS) too has a base on the lagoon coast in Kilali. (The 53 division's troops are trained by US army Special Forces and the SBS is trained by US Navy SEALs)

The SLA's current area of control in the Thenmaradchi division of Jaffna is defended by the 52-3 camps and a main base at Kodikamam, a strategic junction straddling the A9 highway and the only supply route to this sector from the other army held parts of the peninsula.

The second supply route to the SLA controlled part of Thenmaradchi is through the Sarasalai junction which is immediately north of Chavakachcheri town connecting the A9 to the Jaffna town-Pt.Pedro road at Puttur junction.

Although the army claimed earlier in the week that this supply route has been recaptured from the Liberation Tigers, it is yet to open the road due to difficulties in clearing large mine fields and the threat posed by LTTE units operating in the hinterland.

The A9 is cut off between Jaffna town and the western environs of Chavakachcheri as the Tigers hold about 10 kilometers of the highway from Chemmani to Nunanvil west.

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Sri Lankan army tanks in Thenmaradchi Photo:Reuters/Sri Lanka Army Handout
Therefore the Kodikamam-Puloli (Pt.Pedro) road through Varani currently remains the only supply route open to the army fighting the Tiger offensive in the Kodikamam-Eluthumadduval sector (see map). Securing this route while fending off the LTTE attack on the 52-3 brigade the army's top priority now said SLA sources in Colombo.

The Main Supply Route (MSR) to the SLA's 52-5 brigade in Nagar Kovil is from Eluthumadduval which links the A9 highway to the old road on Jaffna's southeastern coast. Any serious threat to the SLA base at Eluthumadduval could disrupt this MSR too. (The old coastal road from Pt.Pedro to Nagar Kovil was considered unsafe for use as the 52-5's MSR due to LTTE infiltration in the interior lagoon)

The SLA, meanwhile, is unable to use its newly acquired Multi-Barrel Rocket launchers effectively to push back the attackers for fear of causing casualties among its own troops as the fighting is very close to and, in some places, inside the defence perimeters of its camps in Kilali and Eluthumadduval.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the battle zone is more than 50 kilometers from the location of the MBRL's, the effective range of which is about 35-40 kilometers. The MBRLs that were hurriedly purchased by the Sri Lankan government from Pakistan and Czechoslovakia in June this year are kept in fire bases in the northwestern sector of the Jaffna peninsula for safety. Artillery and air support could also cause casualties among own troops that are now engaged in close quarter battles with the LTTE on the Eluthumadduval-Kilali axis said military sources in Jaffna.

However, Army officers in Jaffna said that they are confident that despite the odds the SLA is now in a position to push back the LTTE.

 

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