LTTE rolls back Sri Lankan advance
[TamilNet, Thursday, 09 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
In two days of heavy fighting, LTTE units have rolled back Sri Lankan army columns to their former positions in the Periyamadu region, just north of the Nedunkerni-Puliyankulam road. However, the Sri Lankan army claims its forces are 'consolidating' captured positions.
The LTTE say that the Sri Lankan troops who pushed forward from the positions they have been occupying in the Periyamadu region for the past two months have been rolled back after two days of heavy fighting.
Large numbers of Sri Lankan troops had advanced on jungle tracks into the sparsely populated region that is bordered by the Nedunkerni-Puliyankulam to the south and the A9 Vavuniya-Kilinochchi road to the west.
The Sri Lankans had established two supply depots at Vignanakulam and Karaputkuththi junctions, which the LTTE had stormed and captured on Sunday night. The Tigers say these assaults had been decisive in the outcome of the fighting in the past few days.
Following the loss of these supplies, the Sri Lankans had been unable to fend of the LTTE counter-attacks that followed and had withdrawn, harried by LTTE units in the surrounding jungle.
In heavy fighting on Monday, one Sri Lankan column had been forced to withdraw to Periamadu junction whilst on Tuesday, the LTTE attacked the other SLA column, pushing it back to Sinna Adampan.
The LTTE had destroyed a Sri Lankan battle tank in the vicinity of Sinna Adampan village. The LTTE lost 28 fighters in the two days of bitter fighting.
Also on Tuesday, the LTTE units in the region were said to be probing Sri Lankan positions, and 'mopping up' stragglers left behind by the Sri Lankan withdrawal.
The arsenal captured on Sunday had included several mortar tubes and RPG launchers, as well as ample stocks of ammunition, and the LTTE is deploying these in the ongoing fighting.
However, the Sri Lankan army had a diametric version of the battles of the past few days.
The Sri Lankan MoD maintain that their troops are 'consolidating' in captured areas, and that they were engaging Tiger troops 'left behind by their leadership'. However, the Sri Lankans did not say where their troops were 'consolidating'.
The Sri Lankan government claims to have killed hundreds of Tigers in the past few days and said that Sri Lankan troops had cut the Mankulum-Mullaitivu road. The LTTE say that the Sri Lankan columns had been halted at Katkidanku (a few miles south of the road).
The Sri Lankan government has banned reporters from the war zones, ensuring its claims cannot be independently verified.
The Sri Lankans claim that their blocking of the Mullaitivu road had "prevented the rebels from evacuating their casualties" and added "Ground troops had heard many terrorist cadres screaming in pain and appealing for assistance".
However, observers say that these claims are meant to boost morale amongst the Sri Lankan units which had suffered large numbers of wounded at a rate that was stretching the Sri Lankan air force's ability to airlift them out of the war zone.
A Colombo based analyst also noted that when the LTTE attacked and captured the Mullaitivu SLA base in July 1996, they had treated all their wounded at concealed military hospitals in parts of the Vanni other than Mullaitivu.
The observers also cast doubt on the Sri Lankan government's version of events, noting that "The Sri Lankan army claims it has advanced and killed hundreds of Tigers, but it seems to be the LTTE which is returning Sri Lankan bodies recovered from the battlefield".
07.10.97 Sri Lankan depots overrun on Sunday
07.10.97 Heavy fighting continues in Vanni
06.10.97 Tigers rout Sri Lankan advance