Pall over last obstacle on road to Jaffna
[TamilNet, Thursday, 14 March 2002, 17:14 GMT]
The defence lines of the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lanka army in Eluthumadduval are separated by less than 200 meters of the A9 highway. A high tarpaulin hides everything behind the SLA's defence position which straddles the road, the last obstacle on the northern peninsula's main land link to the rest of the island. "We have cleared all the mines on our side as you can see. We got ready to open the road to Jaffna soon after the cessation of hostilities was announced.
| View of the SLA defence position on the A9 in Elthumadduval from LTTE's FDL. (Photo:TamilNet)|
The officer stands by the low fence thatched with dried coconut palm fronds that marks the LTTE's FDL here, as he explains his organisation's stand on opening the road to Jaffna. LTTE officials in the Vanni express concern that the SLA doesn't seem to share their eagerness for opening the A9 highway soon to make life easier for the people of Jaffna.
The LTTE's FDL is located close to the 285th kilometre post on the A9.
The troops of the LTTE unit at the FDL are from the organisation's political wing.
The A9 road behind the LTTE's FDL is scarred by a large 10 foot deep crater, blown out by a heavy bomb dropped by a Sri Lanka Air Force Kfir fighter jet during Operation Agni Kheela, the SLA's massive offensive which was unleashed on the region south of Eluthumadduval barely an hour after the LTTE's four month long unilateral ceasefire ended on 24 April 2001.
| A SLA armoured personnel carrier destroyed by the LTTE in Operation 'Agni Kheela' near Muhamalai.(Photo:TamilNet)|
The SLA offensive was aimed at retaking the Pallai town and thence Elephant Pass. The Liberation Tigers routed the SLA in fierce battles which raged in Muhamalai and Iththavil, between Pallai and Eluthumadduval.
A few kilometres south of the FDL, the once bustling roadside town of Pallai is in ruins. But the town is generally free of anti- personnel mines as it had not been fully garrisoned by the SLA before the Tigers swept through it towards Jaffna town in May 2000. "But we have to be hundred percent certain that the place is safe for civilians", says Mr. Yogan, the official in charge of the mine clearing work in the Vanni.
The people of Jaffna should have free access by road to the peninsula if normalcy is to be restored," says the officer in charge of the LTTE's forward command centre at Eluthumadduval.
A SLA heavy gun position by the Pallai government hospital lies in tangle of concertina and rotting coconut tree logs. The Jaffna medical authorities objected at the time to the SLA moving heavy guns into the environs of the Pallai hospital.
| bomb crater on A9 behind LTTE FDL in Elthumadduval.(Photo:TamilNet)|
The intense salvoes of Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers which provided the main component of the support fire to the 'Agni Kheela' offensive's spearheads burnt the tops off thousands of coconut trees in the fertile estates on either side of the A9 road between Iyakkachchi and Kodikamam in southern Jaffna. (Photo below)
"If we didn't beat back the 'Agni Kheela' offensive no one would have talking about peace now," the LTTE officer at the Eluthumadduval FDL observed.
Thousands of coconut trees were destroyed by SLA's intense salvoes of Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs) in the Jafna peninsula.(Photo:TamilNet)